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Last month, a motorist had to abandon ship seconds before his vehicle got stuck and clobbered by an oncoming train on the Metro-North Railroad tracks in Bedford Hills, N.Y.
Jose Silva drove himself into such peril on purpose. The reason?
His global positioning system told him to go that way.
Oh, that’s a good one. Try that one the next time you’re involved in a vehicular mishap, especially if it’s your fault: “My GPS made me do it, Mr. Officer. Sir.”
It’s also apparently all too true—faulty GPS devices frequently are being blamed for steering their drivers in the wrong direction. They’ve been known to pose distractions with their satellite-directed maps and haughty British-inflected voices.
They and thus their drivers have been known to disregard road signs, conditions or directions that didn’t exist when the systems were programmed.
In England, it’s been estimated about 1.5 million drivers “have suddenly veered dangerously or illegally in busy traffic while following directions. And 5 million have been sent the wrong way down a one-way street,” according to the Mirror, due to the “satnav” systems.
Fortunately, I don’t have a GPS or satnav, which seem to be causing lots of consternation. If they aren’t mis-speaking in their not-so know-it-all English voices and mis-directing their “chauffeurs,” then the confounded things are getting stolen out of people’s cars in broad daylight or later.
I know, because I frequently write and copy-edit local police reports for a living.
When it comes to asking for directions, I’m not afraid to do so because I am woman (hear me roar).
After the time I was headed to Asheville for Thanksgiving, took a wrong turn in South Carolina and wound up in Georgia, I’ve learned not to chance anything without them.
I, however, tend to rely on Internet maps, which I’ve also learned have to be applied with a smidgen of common sense.
One time when I was seeking a simple and direct path to Wilmington, one of those online map-sites directed me down a road I’d never heard of: “Andrew Jackson Highway.”
Yes, there is such a route—better known as “U.S.-17 N/U.S.-74 E/U.S.-76 E”—and it’s still plenty confusing.
Even the Wilmington native and car salesman I was trying to reach had never heard of Andrew Jackson Highway, so he couldn’t tell me how to get there.
Guess that’s how I, too, eventually wound up on the wrong side of the tracks.
Laura Lewis is a staff writer at The Brunswick Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.