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GPS Unit Leads Driver Straight Into Accident

A story in this week's Los Angeles Times reminds us that GPS units are potentially dangerous products, especially if drivers do not listen to the unit's instructions with a bit of skepticism and common sense. On Thursday, a man drove his car off of a ferry in Alaska and listened to the instructions of his car GPS unit while doing so. The GPS told the man to make a right turn when leaving the ferry, and the man did -- driving straight into the harbor.

The car was submerged up to the antenna. The driver was rescued by another passenger on the ferry and taken to the hospital. He was not seriously injured. The harbor master told the Times that she had never seen such a thing happen before.

The town where this happened is isolated. Only about 200 people live in the town year-round and most live in the same high-rise built by the U.S. Army during World War II. The town only has one tunnel through the mountains leading to it and the ferries. It is possible that the GPS is out-of-date considering the remoteness of the town and how most people don't use GPS since it is so small.

The man had two dogs and a cat with him. The dogs were rescued by another ferry passenger who broke out the back window, but he was not able to save the man's cat.

It is probably best to take GPS unit instructions with a grain of salt, particularly if you are traveling in a potentially dangerous area, such as the deserts of Southern California. Always bring a paper map on such expeditions and look before you turn!

Source: Los Angeles Times, "GPS fails; man follows directions straight into Alaska harbor," Kim Murphy, Aug. 23, 2012

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