Death By GPS

From Fox News, a report on an increase in death by GPS:

Navigation aides are leading many astray — with deadly results.

Our country’s remote wildernesses have long called naturalists with their beauty and danger. GPS devices, which use satellites to provide exact location information, have opened those wilds to more people. And that includes the hazards of the remotest regions, said Death Valley wilderness coordinator Charlie Callagan.

“It’s what I’m beginning to call death by GPS,” Callagan told the Sacramento Bee. “People are renting vehicles with GPS and they have no idea how it works — and they are willing to trust the GPS to lead them into the middle of nowhere.”

Over the past 15 years, at least a dozen people have died in Death Valley from heat-related illnesses, thanks to summer temperatures that can (and do) exceed 120 degrees. Travelers are increasingly lead astray by GPS, the paper said.

Wow, a dozen is quite a lot. I wonder how many, if any, people have died whilst Geocaching. The hobby does tend to lead us out into remote areas and gets us doing things we might not otherwise do. Given the general intelligence and understanding of the average Geocacher I wouldn’t say there would be many, but I would be surprised if there wasn’t at least one.

The National Park Service has updated Death Valley’s website with a warning about the use of GPS, in an effort to limit the number of so called “GPS deaths”:

Using GPS Navigation
GPS Navigation to sites to remote locations like Death Valley are notoriously unreliable. Numerous travelers have been directed to the wrong location or even dead-end or closed roads. Travelers should always carry up-to-date road maps to check the accuracy of GPS directions.
DO NOT DEPEND ONLY ON YOUR VEHICLE GPS NAVIGATION SYSTEM.The park saw record attendance recently, however, with visits soaring from 97,000 in 1985 to 257,500 in 2009. And the same pattern is found at remote Joshua Tree National Park, which recorded 128,000 visitors in the summer of 1988. Last year: 230,000.

Death Valley managers are adding heat danger warnings to dozens of new wayside exhibits and working with technology companies to remove closed and hazardous roads from GPS units, the Bee reported.

But few GPS companies FoxNews.com reached out to would provide details on what specifically they have done to improve the warning systems built into GPS units. How up to date are the maps? And will the guidance devices pick up the heat warnings that park rangers are creating?

A spokesman for device manufacturer Garmin dismissed calls, referring to old statements the company has made on GPS deaths. And rival Magellan did not respond to requests for more information.

Interesting that they essentially ignored it. Is this a case of no response is better than saying “we haven’t done anything, people should be smarter!”?

From my point of view it is very sad that these people have died, but there has to be a certain level of personal accountability here. We are all responsible for ourselves and the decisions we make. Garmin and Magellan are not responsible for people of are unable to use their devices in a sensible manner.

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