Electronic Directions: Love Them or Hate Them

In the spirit of full disclosure, I will admit that I detest verbal GPS options of any sort. When in need of driving directions, my personal preference is to either print off directions, highlighting the exits and turns needed, or just write up my own notes. However archaic it might be to some, it works for me.

When I bought my last car, GPS came as an installed feature that the young salesperson was thrilled to try to explain to me (“try” being the operative word, in this case, as he quickly saw it was pointless). The maps have never been updated since the car was driven off the sales lot. My family finds it incredulous that I’ve never even tried to take advantage of such a useful feature, but at the same time, they enjoy changing its language from English to French or Spanish more than anything. Ah, the option of being told how to drive in three languages!

Do you find the GPS voice to be irritating? Of the GPS options I’ve experienced, most have a feminine voice, but I don’t know why. Perhaps to dispel that old adage that woman are not good at map reading, which is not true, but I digress. Back to the GPS voice. Have you noticed that if you miss a turn or fail to follow her direction, she seems to get annoyed? While I realize that in reality, the voice maintains the same monotone throughout the direction process, we tend to project personality traits onto it, hence assuming the irritation factor. After a while, the word ‘recalibrating’ takes on an ominous tone.

And the way the voice pronounces street names! It’s no wonder that turns are missed – you’re too busy trying to understand what the name of the road was.

To illustrate a real-life example of the GPS feature in action, I recently agreed to drive when a friend and I were attending an event. She graciously brought her GPS along since neither of us had ever been to the place before. I had check directions online and knew it was basically just a one-turn trip, which didn’t seem like too much of a challenge. Her GPS had us turn off the main road to the right, down a block or two to another right turn, then another right turn. We ended up below where the original turn started, but we drove in a square formation. After that, we just winged it and found where we were going all on our own.

Sadly, there have been serious mishaps from just following what a GPS system told a driver to do.

  • In one case, a group driving a rental car followed the GPS directions to the letter – right down a boat ramp into a swamp. The driver and passengers were fine; however, the rental car has to be recovered from the swamp.
  • A driver did just as instructed and made a left hand turn directly into New Jersey traffic causing a four-car pile-up.
  • A truck driver following directions and ignoring warning signs ended up in a tree.
  • A driver ignored posted bridge height warnings and continued on the route directed and sheared off the top of a bus.

While embracing technology may be a good thing, it’s also good to rely on what’s posted on the road. Having some idea of directions before starting out may be a game changer and actually make for a more relaxing trip. Happy travels!


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