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Killer Siri – GPS Related Car Accidents

GPS unit on dashboard of car on bridge | GPS Related Car Accidents

The Global Positioning System, more commonly referred to as GPS, has only been available for use by the general public since 1993. Yet for many of us, it is difficult to imagine finding our way around without it. With advancements in smartphones and handheld GPS devices over recent years, nearly everyone is walking around with a GPS-capable device in their pocket most of the time. Many more people are using GPS as their primary, and often their only, method of navigating while driving. Has an over-reliance on GPS technology, and the distractions it causes, increased our chances of being involved in an accident that could have been prevented?

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2014 10% of all fatal crashes in the USA involved some form of distracted driving. The NHSTA has categorized three major types of distractions to drivers in their 2013 report to congress, Understanding the Effects of Distracted Driving and Developing Strategies to Reduce Resulting Deaths and Injuries:

  • Visual distraction: Any task that requires the driver to take their eyes off of the road while driving is considered a visual distraction.
  • Manual distraction: Any task that requires a driver to remove their hands from the steering wheel is considered a manual distraction.
  • Cognitive distraction: Any task that may require a driver to take their mind off of driving is considered a cognitive distraction. (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2010)

All three of these major types of distractions could potentially occur simultaneously when using a GPS. For example: any driver attempting to follow a route on a GPS device will need to manipulate the controls and/or program a destination, as well as interpret and apply the instructions in a real world environment. Drivers have a responsibility to understand the risks involved in using an in-car navigation unit, and take care to focus their attention on driving as much as possible. The destination should always be programmed before driving commences, and if adjustments are required while underway, the driver should only do so once safely pulled over and out of traffic.

Further Reading: Equipment Malfunction Blamed For Fatal Ski Lift Accident

Another important consideration while navigating by GPS is that these devices are limited in the amount and type of information they provide. The digital display itself is limiting, because the dot moving along the route only gives the driver two-dimensional information. It remains up to the driver to be aware of their actual surroundings and use their best judgement while following the directions supplied by the GPS.

Many of us have heard stories of people driving off bridges or cliffs while using a GPS device. Although the overall rate of occurrence for GPS related car accidents is low, and fortunately relatively few of them have resulted in fatalities, these incidents have actually occurred.

You may wonder: How could this possibly happen? The actual GPS coordinates are obtained by the GPS device calculating its position from the GPS satellites orbiting the earth, and are normally accurate within 20 feet. In order to then use these coordinates for navigation, the current location is overlaid onto the mapping software that the GPS device has access to., (a site maintained by the National Coordination Office for Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing) reports that part of the issue with missing or incorrect locations is that the mapping information used by the device is provided by the app developer (eg. Google, Apple).

Our environment is constantly changing around us, and the maps may not always have the most up to date information. Construction, road closures, or fallen trees and rocks on the road are just a few examples of how the directions suggested by the GPS may not be the preferred, or safest route. Becoming overly reliant on navigating by GPS may prevent us from using our natural sense of direction, and make us less aware of our surroundings.

Contact Our Longmont Car Accident Lawyers

Longmont personal injury attorney Jess Cash from Fuicelli & Lee, P.C.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a car accident in Longmont, the steps you take immediately following your accident can have a significant impact on your ability to file a claim. We can help you obtain the maximum compensation for your injuries. Contact the law firm of Fuicelli & Lee, PC, for a free case evaluation. You pay nothing unless you receive a financial settlement or award. Call our office at 303-355-7202 or fill out our confidential contact form.



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