300,000 UK Motorists Say GPS Lead Them Into Danger — But Not All Of Them Followed

from the if-your-gps-told-you-to-jump-off-a-bridge,-would-you-do-it? dept

Drivers in the UK seem to really have a problem with completely relying on GPS navigation directions. But it’s hard to believe the headline that GPS devices caused 300,000 crashes for motorists across the pond. Based on a quick search, the UK’s Department for Transport reported less than 500,000 traffic accidents in 2001 on all the roads in the UK. So unless the number of traffic accidents has skyrocketed over the last few years, it would seem that GPS devices are to blame for a significant number of vehicle accidents. (It’s not clear over what time period those 300,000 GPS-caused accidents occurred — but presumably those 300,000 crashes didn’t start happening in the 1980’s.)

However, the UK poll actually says that one in fifty UK drivers — about 300,000 motorists — blames GPS for causing or nearly causing an accident — which is hardly the same thing as GPS devices causing 300,000 accidents. But even so, if the poll numbers are accurate, it also seems amazing that there isn’t a follow-up headline regarding a class action lawsuit against these “dangerous” GPS devices. Clearly, there are a sizable number of drivers who need more reminders that automated directions are not 100% reliable. Given the somewhat saturated GPS device market, maybe more safety features should become a differentiator — instead of novelty Knight Rider voices and navigators disguised as teddy bears.

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Comments on “300,000 UK Motorists Say GPS Lead Them Into Danger — But Not All Of Them Followed”

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Hulser says:

Re: Common Sense?

I can’t believe I’m doing this, but I have to defend the people that would at least partially blame a GPS device for a near accident. See, it’s not just about common sense. Of course it makes sense that you don’t blindly follow the instructions of a GPS device, but there’s gotta be something going on here that tends to override people’s common sense. For whatever reason, people trust computers and electronic devices. It’s kind of like people that talk loud on their cell phones. You can hate it when other people do it, but still catch yourself doing it. It’s just something that happens.

I got a GPS device for Christmas and, to be honest, it took me a bit to get used to using it. It’s a little computer screen right there in your car and what do you do with computer screens? Well, you look at them. It took a while to develop a habit of timing my glances at safe(r) times.

To be clear, I’m not excusing people for running in a lake because their GPS device told them to (a la The Office), but I would have to agree with Mr. Ho that makers of GPS devices should attempt to differentiate themselves through safety features.

iioiooioo says:


I can’t believe you’re doing that, either. It’s 100% about common sense. People need to start taking responsibility for their own actions. No shit, if you’re not looking at / focusing on the road it’s dangerous. I think a good safety feature would be to allow idiots to kill themselves, preventing reproduction. It might take a couple of generations, but it’ll be worth it.

Hulser says:

Re: @Hulser

It’s 100% about common sense.

I respectfully disagree. Your comments seems to imply that taking responsibility for ones actions is mutually exclusive to understanding the cause of certain behaviors. If you get into an accident because you were watching your GPS screen instead of the road or because your GPS device “told you” to go the wrong way down a one way street, then of course it’s your fault. You are personally responsible for that action. However, this doesn’t negate the fact that the human brain is hardwired in such a way that it’s sometimes difficult to divide one’s attention between between the road and devices like this, or that people tend to place too much trust in computers and electronic devices. So, yes…you can have personal responsibility, but still know your customer well enough that you can add in some safety features that will help people get used to a new way of driving.

(For example, it’s common sense that if you want to reply to this comment, you’d click the link that said “(reply to this comment)”, but some people instead choose to use contrived conventions like the “@”.)

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: @Hulser

Ok, two questions:

– If you think a GPS is that dangerous, why do you have it in your car?

– There are hundreds of distractions while you’re in a car, from your mobile phone going off to the kids in the back car to the CD skipping in your stereo. Most of us manage to avoid accidents by ignoring those distractions, why do you think people are incapable of doing the same with GPS? Do you also stare at TVs in shop windows as you drive past because you think you’re “hardwired” to do so?

For me, it comes down to think: a GPS is an incredibly useful tool for navigating unfamiliar roads, especially if you don’t have someone else in the car to read a map. However, many people seem to either use them for what should be familiar journeys (instead of actually memopising the route) or blindly follow what the GPS says instead of trusting their own eyes.

*That’s* the problem. there are unfortunately idiots on the road, and I get the feeling that people blaming GPS units for these events are probably the same ones who didn’t think that talking on the mobile or fishing around for a CD on the floor were dangerous either. I’d also say that the numbers are probably vastly exaggerated – not just by the article itself including near-misses, but by the claims of drivers themselves. Talking on the mobile while driving = illegal, looking at the GPS instead of the road = debatable. Most people would rather chance the possibility that the GPS claim might not be considered dangerous driving, than admit to something that’s specifically outlawed.

Hulser says:

Re: Re: Re: @Hulser

If you think a GPS is that dangerous, why do you have it in your car?

Where did I say that GPS devices were “dangerous”? Answer: I didn’t.

why do you think people are incapable of doing the same with GPS?

Where did I say that “people were incableable of doing the same thing”? Answer: I didn’t.

What I did say is that the safety concerns around GPS devices in cars is more complicated than an application of common sense. Common sense can tell you one thing, but your natural reactions can tend towards something altogether different. All that I’m saying is that a better understanding of why many people blame their GPS devices for near accidents is a better approach than just saying “use common sense”. And, getting back to the point of the original TD article, that the makers of GPS devices can differentiate themselves from other companies by adding safety features rather.

aliasblur says:

RE: Common Sense

I’ve been using a Nav system for a couple of years and have NEVER been even close to an accident because of using it. I use the voice prompt feature. That way YOU DON’T HAVE TO LOOK AT IT. Plain and simple. Of course, mine is integrated into my vehicle and mutes the stereo when giving prompts, so maybe I have an edge on everyone else. Still, reading reports on /. that say that people continue to follow the instructions despite having to go over a locked train crossing… Uhrum, c’mon people. I mean really.

confused says:

Common sense

I’m having a hard time typing this as I drive down the road listening and watching my GPS navigate me while I’m not looking at the road. I totally disagree with the premise of this article. Man would not have 2 legs and 2 arms if he were not meant to use each for manipulating tiny keyboards.

Mike says:

Re: Common sense

To Blame human error on something other than human error is human, a factor that is not removed from this or other equations. We certainly expect pilots to avoid other airplanes when devices that aid them fail, radar, gyro’s, GPS, RF,,ECT. That is why we still make a seat available in the plane or car for humans. Still full automation of travel relies on the human factor as well. Either way NOT to correct the error(human or GPS) is just plain Negligence.

Brandon says:

The Real Cause?

So how many of these accidents or near accidents were actually caused by the GPS giving bad directions and how many were caused by people paying more attention to the GPS than the road? I would bet the majority would be in the latter category. But it’s easier for fear-mongering news outlets to blame the GPS device. How long until these things are banned from cars like talking on cell phones?

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