×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

'Death By GPS' Increasing In America's Wilderness

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the waiting-for-death-valley's-seasonal-ferry dept.

Transportation 599

An anonymous reader writes "Every year, more and more Americans are dying in deserts and wildernesses because they rely on their GPS units (and, to some degree, their cellphones) to always be accurate. The Sacramento Bee quotes Death Valley wilderness coordinator Charlie Callagan: 'It's what I'm beginning to call death by GPS ... 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.'"

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

599 comments

Please take responsibility for your life. (5, Insightful)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094156)

Come on, folks, you're traveling between Portland OR and Las Vegas NV, and your GPS says the most direct route is over some gravel Forest Service road in the Eastern Oregon mountains... In the winter... You take it? Really?

Your GPS takes you down some deserted desert road that peters away into sand in the mifddle of Death Valley... Really?

There's not much you can do about MORONS, one way or another, they may kill themselves.

Re:Please take responsibility for your life. (2, Insightful)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094412)

Though that's also a deceit (effectively) by the GPS unit / their manufacturers don't tend to advertise their capabilities as "may be wrong" (and how can random people know up front?)

Related: some solutions could stop insisting on loading the needed data only at the start of a particular journey. Allowing to have recent and fairly good offline maps of large areas, also where there's no cellular signal, would really help with the whole concept of GPS...

Re:Please take responsibility for your life. (5, Insightful)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094522)

their manufacturers don't tend to advertise their capabilities as "may be wrong"

All of the Garmin Nuvi GPS units I have had have a warning screen that shows every single time that it is turned on saying this.

This probably is more a feature of people liking to be getting orders, even when those orders are wrong.

Not to say that I am immune. I have found my self going down roads where if my GPS quit I would only have a vague idea of how to get home from that location.

Re:Please take responsibility for your life. (1)

iamhassi (659463) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094674)

"All of the Garmin Nuvi GPS units I have had have a warning screen that shows every single time that it is turned on saying this."

My TomTom doesn't do that... does that mean Garmin assumes their buyers are stupider or that TomTom isn't worried about being sued?

Re:Please take responsibility for your life. (2)

afidel (530433) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094924)

It probably doesn't cross their mind as they are a European company and such a lawsuit would most likely fail.

Re:Please take responsibility for your life. (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094832)

It still isn't advertised much (hey, it would be bad advertising...) / such screens are apparently easy to ignore.

BTW, it's even more puzzling when people seem to rely on GPS, and in an unsafe way ... when it isn't really needed. It's not a very rare sight to see a car with local plates, few to dozen km from its (small / impossible to get lost in) hometown, driving towards it on an ubermain road, in the night, with the display of GPS unit blasting at full brightness into the eyes of its driver...

Re:Please take responsibility for your life. (1)

vonux (1715226) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094874)

I have found my self going down roads where if my GPS quit I would only have a vague idea of how to get home from that location.

Since the GPS makes it so easy to navigate from A to B, people might embark on a journey without really considering what could go wrong. False sense of security and all that. It could be your car that broke down, leaving you knowing where you are, but with no practical way of getting out of there.

Re:Please take responsibility for your life. (4, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094622)

Plain ol maps don't tell you they 'may be wrong' either. It comes with the territory. No matter what you are using for a guide - maps, mystic revelations, signs from God - you still still have to look out the windshield and think occasionally. In the Olden Days when I did Search and Rescue in Colorado we didn't have GPS. We had maps. And we ended up pulling out idiots from all sorts of places because the 'map told them' they could get from one abandoned mining town to another over a 13000 foot pass in a Volkswagen.

And your second wish has been granted. There are a number of iPhone apps which do allow you to download maps before you head out. Very classy. Garmin ought to be scared - the iPhone is a hell of a lot better GPS than my Oregon 400: better display, better GPS chip, better battery life (really!). The only advantage that the Garmin has is that it's completely waterproof and I can carry a passle of AA batteries with me.

Re:Please take responsibility for your life. (1)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094886)

well maps have this thing called a 'legend' that visually indicates that the road is gravel or paved or divided highway. And you need to follow the map all the way to your destination to know the way.

GPS just says 'turn here' 'continue for elventybillion miles'. It doesn't readily give you any idea what types of roads you'll be encountering.

That said, I'm on the side of the 'Darwinism' this represents. However, all these morons tax our emergency responder resources so much that they can't always respond to 'actual' emergencies. So in this case the morons actually do endanger more than just themselves.

Re:Please take responsibility for your life. (1)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094442)

Yes some people really are that stupid, I heard on the news of someone who drove into a body of water (not sure if it was a river the lake or the sea) because their GPS didn't indicate it was a ferry link rather than a road. Don't remember whether they died or not but it shows how stupid people can be.

A bigger problem over here in old blighty is articulated lorries getting stuck by driving down roads that are too narrow or otherwise unsuitable. One big problem in this case is it's virtually impossible to turn a lorry on a narrow road. So if the road starts looking bad the choices are to carry on and hope they don't get stuck, try to reverse out (very slow and likely to require a second person) or tow the lorry out.

It doesn't help that in britan we identify our roads based on how important they are in the network, not generally on how big they are.

There's not much you can do about MORONS, one way or another, they may kill themselves.

Agreed

Re:Please take responsibility for your life. (2)

characterZer0 (138196) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094496)

I have read a few cases of people driving into bodies of water and buildings. I cannot fathom how someone would just drive into water. I suspect they drove off the road because they were fidgeting with the GPS or something else instead of looking at the road, and then blamed the GPS

Re:Please take responsibility for your life. (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094910)

I cannot fathom how someone would just drive into water.

Probably dark/foggy and they were driving on what looked like a bridge, but was really a ferry dock. Of course, there was probably a crossing-arm that they drove through/around to fall into the water.

Re:Please take responsibility for your life. (3, Informative)

plover (150551) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094696)

A bigger problem over here in old blighty is articulated lorries getting stuck by driving down roads that are too narrow or otherwise unsuitable. One big problem in this case is it's virtually impossible to turn a lorry on a narrow road. So if the road starts looking bad the choices are to carry on and hope they don't get stuck, try to reverse out (very slow and likely to require a second person) or tow the lorry out.

In America, there are GPS maps created by commercial services for sale to the trucking industry. These maps include weight restrictions, width and height restrictions, truck routes, diesel fuel truck stops, tire and service centers, all kinds of information that is specific to the driving of big rigs. I would assume you have similar services available over there. But if your ordinary trucker thinks he can just drop a $99 Garmin on his dashboard and use it to drag a 30 tonne trailer to wherever he wants, well, that's almost as foolish as trying to cross two hundred miles of desert because there's a little blue line on the screen.

Re:Please take responsibility for your life. (1)

JonStewartMill (1463117) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094802)

I heard on the news of someone who drove into a body of water (not sure if it was a river the lake or the sea) because their GPS didn't indicate it was a ferry link rather than a road. Don't remember whether they died or not but it shows how stupid people can be.

Wasn't that an episode of The [American]Office?

Re:Please take responsibility for your life. (1)

aBaldrich (1692238) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094466)

The less apt individuals don't pass on their genes. That's the whole point of the Darwin Awards [darwinawards.com] .

Re:Please take responsibility for your life. (1)

H0p313ss (811249) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094682)

The less apt individuals don't pass on their genes. That's the whole point of the Darwin Awards [darwinawards.com] .

Is there some fund or organization that I can contribute to that will distribute GPS devices to morons^H^H^H^H^H^H disadvantaged families?

Three cheers for GPS navigators! (0)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094602)

There's not much you can do about MORONS, one way or another, they may kill themselves.

Crossing dodgy terrain with GPS just provides another way for the floaters to be filtered out of the gene pool.

Re:Please take responsibility for your life. (2, Funny)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094654)

Yep. Natural selection is still alive & well - assisted by computers giving bad directions. Reminds me of that Office episode:

GPS: "Turn here."
"Michael that's a lake!"
"But the GPS said turn here, so I'm turning here."
(vroom) - (splash)

When I was in Salt Lake city I tried to take an old road parallel to I-80, but when it started beating my car's suspension said "Screw this" and turned around. You have to use the computer God put in your frakking head!

Re:Please take responsibility for your life. (2, Informative)

BenSchuarmer (922752) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094822)

I'd hardly call James Kim (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Kim) a "moron".

The guy went to Oberlin College, and worked as a reviewer for CNET. He and his family missed an exit while traveling through southern Oregon. Instead of turning around, they asked their GPS for an alternate route. It told them to take a rarely used road that had a lot of snow. Their car got stuck. After about a week, he decided to try to walk to a town that he thought was four miles away. He died of exposure.

He made a couple of bad decisions, and it cost him his life.

Darwin would be proud. (1, Insightful)

Kenja (541830) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094162)

You call it "Death by GPS" I call it "evolution".

Re:Darwin would be proud. (5, Funny)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094202)

GPS is just a theory. I subscribe to Intelligent Directionism.

Re:Darwin would be proud. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35094720)

Intelligent Directionism is just thinly-veiled superstition.

I prefer to believe in the Winged Linguini Cartographer. All hail his semolina compass rose!

Re:Darwin would be proud. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35094426)

i hope you mean "Natural Selection"

Darwin in effect (0)

lnevo (10937) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094176)

This is just an example of Natural Selection at work.

Re:Darwin in effect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35094314)

The best example of Death By GPS comes from Brazil: http://www.darwinawards.com/darwin/darwin2008-16.html The "Flying Priest"

He do not even know how to use it and becomes fish food.

Re:Darwin in effect (1)

lennier1 (264730) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094570)

Compared to that the usual idiots who'll drive into a river because a ferry was marked as a bridge seem like mere amateurs.

It happens (1)

Nukenbar (215420) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094234)

My ex-girlfriend got stuck on a road last winter because her GPS took her up a summer only road that was for snowmobiles in the winter. The GPS didn't know the difference. We had to get a buddy's big pickup truck to come crank her our of a snowdrift.

Re:It happens (2)

Literaphile (927079) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094300)

Is she your ex-girlfriend because you realized that someone who doesn't notice snow on the road ahead isn't the sharpest pencil in the drawer?

Re:It happens (1)

Stenchwarrior (1335051) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094436)

No, she's his ex because when I rescued her from the snow she realized she didn't want to be with someone who couldn't protect her.

Re:It happens (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35094498)

Hey, man, if YOU want a girl who NEEDS that much protection all the time, you're welcome to her.

Re:It happens (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094792)

Is she your ex-girlfriend because you realized that someone who doesn't notice snow on the road ahead isn't the sharpest pencil in the drawer?

Wow, Slashdot nerds really do enjoy a good fantasy about being choosey enough to dump chicks for petty reasons.

Re:It happens (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35094360)

My ex-girlfriend got stuck on a road last winter because her GPS took her up a summer only road that was for snowmobiles in the winter. The GPS didn't know the difference. We had to get a buddy's big pickup truck to come crank her our of a snowdrift.

The fact that the road was buried in enough snow to get the vehicle stuck ... that didn't tip her off that something was amiss? Hint for her: if you can't see the road markings because the road is buried in snow, you probably shouldn't take that road.

I hope your ex is hot because she doesn't sound too bright.

Re:It happens (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35094692)

How far south are you from? One-quarter inch of snow is enough to obliterate road markings. One-quarter inch of snow in no way means you shouldn't take a road.

Re:It happens (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35094876)

Hint for her: if you can't see the road markings because the road is buried in snow, you probably shouldn't take that road.

So you don't drive on roads with 5mm of compressed snow on it?

Re:It happens (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35094366)

People shouldn't let GPS be their eyes, maybe their map! I have a buddy who tried to follow GPS to my cabin and it wanted to take him through from the other end of the road we are on. The other end hasn't gone through since before I was born and I am 32....

is map reading really that hard? (1)

alen (225700) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094252)

i couldn't navigate until Platoon Leader's Development Course in the US Army and now i can look at any map and find my way easily. never use a GPS. even learned to navigate using the terrain in a few days.

half the battle is just looking at your watch and the sun to figure out where north, south, east and west are

Re:is map reading really that hard? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35094460)

sounds hard enough that it required special para military training.
Maybe they need to have a Junior Highschool course GPS training and urban survival 101.
Maybe they can make a Map Reading for Dummies handbook for us lesser beings.

Re:is map reading really that hard? (1)

causality (777677) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094664)

i couldn't navigate until Platoon Leader's Development Course in the US Army and now i can look at any map and find my way easily. never use a GPS. even learned to navigate using the terrain in a few days.

half the battle is just looking at your watch and the sun to figure out where north, south, east and west are

It wasn't difficult to learn how to use a map and compass and then to learn several ways to find general directions without a compass. Until I learned those things, plus some (very basic) survival skills, I felt I had no business hiking and backpacking. I have no idea why anyone would believe that they are somehow exempt from this self-evident truth. Nor do I understand why anyone believes they can perform a task at which they are incompetent and expect good results, to the point where they are willing to bet their life on it.

How many stories like this does someone require to understand there is a risk that some preparedness can mitigate? You'd think one example would be enough to make the point. I have to admit, all the posts stating that this is natural selection at work ring true. Some may think that's callous, but it's not. It's just an ugly reality.

Re:is map reading really that hard? (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094718)

half the battle is just looking at your watch and the sun to figure out where north, south, east and west are

Squints at digital readout on watch. "This wasn't covered in my Boy Scout manual. Where's the damn hour hand?"

Re:is map reading really that hard? (1)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094830)

Maps aren't any better. I've looked at real maps that have 'roads' marked that really aren't there or are summer only roads.

Microsoft Street and Trips tried to take me over Ophers Pass [narrowgauge.org] in June. When I got home, I looked it up and it "... does not present any technical difficulty for the careful driver, and can be driven in good weather conditions during late summer by high clearance two wheel drive vehicles." Which means not June and not in a 2wd Jetta. If I was looking at a map I wouldn't have known the difference. I got about 1/2 way up it and thought, this isn't right and turned around and too the long way.

Wrong name (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35094272)

Its not called 'death by GPS' its called 'natural selection'.

Darwin at work. (3, Insightful)

mark-t (151149) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094282)

Sorry if I sound unsympathetic... but really, who starts to drive through a large unpopulated expanse of land without at least making sure they have enough gas to make it across? I've seen "Last Chance" gas stations before, and in my experience they are totally serious... dare I even say deadly serious. If you don't fill up there, you can very well not expect to ever see another human being again for as long as you live... which might not be very long from now if you decide that you have enough gas just because your low gas indicator isn't lit.

Re:Darwin at work. (1)

Idarubicin (579475) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094444)

Sorry if I sound unsympathetic... but really, who starts to drive through a large unpopulated expanse of land without at least making sure they have enough gas to make it across?

Sorry if I sound unsympathetic, but really, who posts a Slashdot comment without reading the article...oh, never mind.

The article doesn't mention anyone running out of fuel. It talks about people who followed (or possibly mis-followed) directions from the GPS units and drove onto private, closed, rough, or unmaintained roads deep in the desert wilderness and then got stuck. If you want to lecture these people about anything, it should be over their failure to carry enough water before entering the desert. Even if you're going the right way your vehicle can still break down and strand you far from civilization; all the gasoline in the world won't help you when you're dying from dehydration.

Re:Darwin at work. (1)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094922)

"If you don't fill up there, you can very well not expect to ever see another human being again for as long as you live."
IMO If forgetting to fill up on fuel results in your death then you probably weren't adequately prepared for the trip in the first place. If you are going into an area where you can't walk far enough to get help without needing water then you need to make provisions for how you will survive and either escape or get help if your car breaks down.

Part of the problem is people place blind trust in their GPS units. Just because the GPS unit has found a route doesn't mean it's a route you can drive without taking extra precautions but also IMO there need to be warnings on the ground of routes that should not be driven without special precautions.

A map is a map (1, Insightful)

kenholm3 (1400969) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094334)

Whether that map is electronic (GPS) or not (origami), maps can be out-of-date or just plain wrong. Nattrass said. "A map in that case may have been a lifesaver for them." Not so. If they had a GOOD/ACCURATE map, it could have been a lifesaver. Had they a map from 100 years ago, it would have been useless.

Re:A map is a map (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35094434)

Whether that map is electronic (GPS) or not (origami), maps can be out-of-date or just plain wrong.

Nattrass said. "A map in that case may have been a lifesaver for them." Not so. If they had a GOOD/ACCURATE map, it could have been a lifesaver. Had they a map from 100 years ago, it would have been useless.

Well, mountains and rivers don't change much in 100 years. But you are correct that the thing to blame is not GPS itself, it is the map that is provided along with it. Having your true coordinates and correct maps would get you out of trouble. Trusting your life to outdated or wrong maps on a cheap GPS device is not a good idea.

Re:A map is a map (2)

Octorian (14086) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094458)

This is why I hate conventional car GPS units. They go to great lengths to hide the map from you, and often make it difficult to use when you get to it. They keep you as ignorant as possible until 300ft prior to making a turn. This is why, despite its other limitations, I'm far more comfortable with Google Maps on my GPS-enabled phone. It actually shows me a route on an easily viewable map, so I get a feel for how I'm actually going to get there before I start driving.

Re:A map is a map (1)

jandrese (485) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094544)

You've never used a GPS unit with a zoom/scan option? I've never seen such a device before, but I guess it could exist. Of course most people aren't going to zoom out every time they get a route and verify that it makes sense, but if you notice you're going to down a dirt road and you're still hours from your destination, most people would stop and check.

Of course some people won't, and they'll die, and the world will get a tiny bit smarter overall.

Re:A map is a map (1)

mr_walrus (410770) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094820)

my garmin has a very annoying misfeature. i run with it fairly zoomed out, i like to see a bigger picture.
i'm driving a tractor trailer and many times i need to QUICKLY determine alternatives for a vehicle than cannot
be quickly maneuvered.

so this misfeature of garmin's is to automatically zoom IN as you near a turn. WORST POSSIBLE TIME,
it's at turns i need to know the bigger picture. whether the turn is physically unattractive for the truck,
or simply posted with a "no trucks" sign. eg: turn right instead of left at the same intersection and "go around
about way" or go forward a block or two and come in from the the other direction, etc.
but in this age of non euclidean street planners, one does NOT assume you are going to be able to find
a 'next turn'. suburban streets built in the last 20 years rarely (it seems) have rational shapes or interconnects.
i need to see a map. definitely don't need to see things zoomed in to the lines in the pedestrian crossing.

and this misfeature will fight you if you try to zoom back out while moving.

no way to turn off that auto zoom-in misfeature. grrrrr.

Re:A map is a map (1)

brainboyz (114458) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094788)

I've never seen an in-car GPS system where you couldn't hit some sort of menu button and then select "view map" that, while not at smooth and feature-rich as GMaps, worked perfectly well for viewing the path of travel and surrounding area. I love GMaps and use it all the time (generally reviewing and committing the directions to memory), but tell me what happens when you've got no cell signal and the GPS signal flips out thus causing a recalculation. Personally, I use Google when I have it, but have GPS maps loaded to my phone's SD card as a backup.

Re:A map is a map (2)

Idarubicin (579475) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094722)

I think the point was more that if these people had had a map and known how to use it then it could have been a lifesaver. The big problem with the GPS units in these circumstances is users who don't know how to find alternate routes when their original planned path is impassible (or at least, ought to be recognized as such). Someone may know how to enter an origin and destination and follow the given directions, but may not know how to select an alternate route (using the software, or just by looking at the rest of the map on the device).

On the other hand, someone using a paper map almost certainly does have those basic navigation skills; you can't use a paper map at all without them.

Seen this (3, Interesting)

DCFusor (1763438) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094342)

Or close enough. Not long ago I had a trucker come to my door, out of breath, having stuck his tractor at the bottom of the hill I live near the top of, being brought this way by MapQuest and GPS. Nothing special you say...well, evidently those services thought a 1 lane gravel road going straight up a mountain (in SW VA), complete with cliffs, deep ditches, and short radius turns was a perfectly fine route to send this dupe on. Believe me, there are plenty of small cars that don't make it on that road, and it took "the million dollar wrecker" many hours to extract this guy, probably cost him his job on top of it.
.

Now, the real question was actually even how he got as far as he did. He'd had to go up and down and around for a couple miles of almost-that-bad road to get where he got stuck in a place utterly obvious a tractor couldn't go -- it was longer and straighter than the distance between two hairpins near the bottom of that hill, and driving skill at that point made no difference. I'd have to suppose this guy didn't realize that it was pointless, and that even an hour of carefully backing up the way he came would be a better plan -- there is no place to turn one of these.
.

What is truly hilarious is that he would only have saved two miles (out of 10-15) doing this over simply using the main, paved roads -- this was a "shortcut", and the way no one goes who knows the roads here -- too hard on the vehicle to be worth saving the miles, and you save no gas at all.
.

So yeah, it took both driver ignorance AND a lousy GPS to get there, but it seems both were willin'.

Re:Seen this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35094630)

evidently those services thought a 1 lane gravel road going straight up a mountain (in SW VA), complete with cliffs, deep ditches, and short radius turns was a perfectly fine route to send this dupe on. Believe me, there are plenty of small cars that don't make it on that road, and it took "the million dollar wrecker" many hours to extract this guy, probably cost him his job on top of it.

Wrong, those services have _No Idea_ what manner of vehicle he was intending to drive or what the current conditions of those roads may be (generally the map only indicates their existence not their size, nearby terrain and level of maintenance), and thus can't be trusted to make accurate determinations if his vehicle could navigate those roads.

GPS and computer generate map routs, are a tool. Just like a hammer. It's no more the GPS's fault that the trucker tried to drive an unnavigable road than it's the hammer's fault if you hit your thumb with it.

I've been seeing this for decades now... (3, Funny)

Iphtashu Fitz (263795) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094384)

I was in the US Coast Guard from roughly 1990 to 2000, and GPS quickly became a very popular alternative to the older LORAN-C system used by recreational & commercial boaters alike. I did a number of patrols in Boston Harbor, which has a few very shallow spots in it. There are a couple places in particular where there are rocks just below the surface of the water at low tide, but if you have even the most basic level of understanding aids to navigation (bouys, etc) it's very easy to avoid those spots. There's one spot south of Logan Airport called "lower middle" that has rocks just below the waterline, but well marked channels guide boaters well around both sides of it.

I still clearly recall one summer day when we were on patrol and saw a small boat moving slowly through lower middle, pretty much directly toward where we knew the rocks were. We sped towards them as quickly as we could and tried to get their attention, but before we could we saw the unmistakable result of their boat hitting the rocks at a slow speed - the boat lurched a bit and the back kicked up noticeably. By the time we got close enough to them without putting our own boat in danger we could see oil starting to leak out around their engine.

When we told the operator that he was well outside the marked channels and that he had struck a rock that's clearly marked on all navigation charts, he simply replied, "Well my GPS told me to turn left here."

Re:I've been seeing this for decades now... (1)

ojak (1857004) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094840)

On the bright side, does GPS help find their dead body?

Re:I've been seeing this for decades now... (5, Insightful)

radtea (464814) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094872)

When we told the operator that he was well outside the marked channels and that he had struck a rock that's clearly marked on all navigation charts, he simply replied, "Well my GPS told me to turn left here."

I grew up living on a rocky point with reefs offshore in an area with 16 foot tides, and every couple of years my father and brother and I would rescue boaters who'd run aground. This was back when LORAN was still pretty new and GPS undreamed of, but the universal feature of people who hit the rocks was that the only navigation aid on board was--at best--a road map.

A big part of the problem is that people are simply ignorant. If you didn't grow up in an area or haven't lived there for a long time it can be hard to appreciate the risks. And most people grow up in urban or suburban areas that effectively have no (natural) risks at all. People like that simply don't know enough to appreciate that the landscape and climate can kill them if they don't take the appropriate precautions. GPS is just an enabling device that helps that ignorance get them killed: it creates an illusion of safety and certainty that they might otherwise not have, although according to the article people were plenty able to get into trouble without it.

Re:I've been seeing this for decades now... (5, Insightful)

starfishsystems (834319) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094884)

Any competent navigator knows to treat GPS as a tool for verifying where you are. Period.

Unless all other means of verification (visual, compass, sextant, RDF, depth sounder, radar, LORAN, dead reckoning) are unavailable, you should never rely on GPS alone.

Boaters should be particularly suspicious of GPS devices which instruct them to "take next exit right after overpass".

Re:I've been seeing this for decades now... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35094914)

I wander if the same thing happened for larger ships too. For example,

      http://uk.reuters.com/article/2010/04/14/us-australia-ship-arrests-idUKTRE63D17N20100414
      http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/nov/28/submarine-aground-hms-astute-commander

They see a quicker path via GPS and ...

Bear Grylls don't need no stinkin' GPS (4, Funny)

Lucas123 (935744) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094410)

He'd hold two sticks up to the sun, determine his location and time to destination ... then eat a few grubs and squeeze a shot of water from some animal dung.

Re:Bear Grylls don't need no stinkin' GPS (2)

Av8rjoker (1212804) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094620)

Or spend the night in a hotel while awesome editing makes everything look extreme!

Re:Bear Grylls don't need no stinkin' GPS (5, Informative)

Luminary Crush (109477) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094680)

... and then he'd pack it in for the day, take the camera crew out for a nice dinner at the nearest steakhouse, check into his hotel and be all fresh for the next day's shoot.

Bear is at best entertainment (think 'fear factor' outdoors), at worst a fraud. A real "survivorman" is Les Stroud, who packs in all his own gear and films everything himself, alone... and actually stays out in the wilderness for the duration.

Re:Bear Grylls don't need no stinkin' GPS (3, Insightful)

sanosuke001 (640243) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094860)

I always felt Bear Grylls was a hack; Les Stroud I enjoy watching because he actually walks you through what he is doing to survive. If Bear gets screwed somehow, he's got people to back him up. Bear goes for the crazy shit to sell TV. Les doesn't have that luxury; he can't even contact help. If he doesn't show up in the seven days, they go look for him. Les Stroud is much more believable. That feces water thing is bullshit... Bear is completely stupid.

Re:Bear Grylls don't need no stinkin' GPS (1)

CatsupBoy (825578) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094762)

Right, because putting your life in the hands of a TV sensation is much better. Try dying of Giardiasis [wikipedia.org] after pulling this stunt in the wilderness.

Re:Bear Grylls don't need no stinkin' GPS (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094882)

Why use an extra stick? Location and time can be estimated with reasonable accuracy using a single stick (or other shadow-casting object).

GPS: 90% accurate... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35094418)

Even in major cities, GPS will (occasionally but cheerfully) lead you into parking lots, streets that don't even exist... (Anecdote: Once, while driving 65+ down a highway, My lovely little unit startled me with a "Turn Left!" command out of nowhere. Very fun.) Even if the directions are 100% correct, you'll sometimes see a better, legal way to get where you want to go (U-turns, for example).

I'm sorry to know that other people were as stupid as I have been. Treat your GPS instructions as ADVICE, and keep your eyes open!

Google? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35094422)

From TFA:

"I'm pulling my hair," he said. "I was never able to reach a single human with Google Earth Maps. But in their system, they have a way you can let them know something is wrong. And over the course of a year, I was able to get their maps updated."

This was the least surprising part of the article. I'm becoming increasingly convinced that they don't actually have any human beings over there at all, and GLaDOS or whatever is running the show entirely.

Kill It Before It Dies (-1, Flamebait)

jimmerz28 (1928616) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094480)

I'm all for morons killing themselves. Why is this an assumed problem again?

Re:Kill It Before It Dies (5, Insightful)

royallthefourth (1564389) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094560)

If you actually talk like this in person, then you are probably the most disgusting, insufferable asshole that anyone around you has ever met.

Re:Kill It Before It Dies (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35094814)

Thank you.

"More and more Americans" == 5? (1)

drb226 (1938360) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094508)

5 deaths are mentioned. I see no other evidence in this article of deaths. The assertion that "More and more Americans are dying in deserts and wildernesses because they rely on their GPS units" is extremely vague, and almost entirely sensationalist speculation.

Bogus story (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35094528)

These anecdotes are interesting and all, but I prefer articles with actual statistics:
http://www.slate.com/id/2264778/

But I guess I'm just a nerd like that.

In other news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35094532)

The Slashdot banner covers up the headline.. film at 11, 10 central

DON'T READ THE ARTICLE (3, Informative)

scribblej (195445) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094554)

No really. Talk about depressing. It's about a six-year old kid and his mom, the kid dies. That's sad enough, but they have to give you some horrible details and imagery that's incredibly depressing.

I'm gunna go run a hot bath and slit my wrists now. Or maybe make some toast.

Re:DON'T READ THE ARTICLE (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35094790)

OK, I read it.

And I've got to say that, yes, it is depressing, but at the same time, these people really have only themselves to blame. I mean, driving into Death Valley without any knowledge of the area, without even a map, without water, without... anything? Just "I'll turn on my GPS and the friendly voice will tell me where to go"? Sheesh.

At least the woman survived. Here's hoping she will get over killing her son with her own stupidity, which is essentially what she did.

I suspect conspiracy. (3, Funny)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094556)

Reminds me of a background element in the "Girl Genius" comic.

A candy dispenser ball, filled with candies in big glass sphere, and a pretty poster over it, written in big friendly colorful letters:

.....POISON......
Illiteracy reduction program

Fearless (1)

OhHellWithIt (756826) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094558)

The first guy I knew who had a GPS told me, "This thing can make you absolutely fearless." The dangers seemed pretty minimal in the Northern Virginia suburbs, but it's clear that one must respect the environment, as some places can be deadly. Thanks for posting a sobering article.

A little cleaning? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35094562)

This is just a little chlorine for the gene pool...

gadgets suppress the preparation instinct (1)

cats-paw (34890) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094574)

of course not that many people seem to have it in the first place, but now they
think they can really avoid spending time understanding what they are doing thanks to gadgets.

people wouldn't get into trouble if they spent just some small amount of time planning where they were
going and alternate routes to get there.

gps is the issue. (1)

luther349 (645380) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094624)

gps as been around for a very long time. when they started the entire turn by tun directions and mass marking them it became a problem. so rather then treating it like a device of reference like where you are on a map people have started using them as replacements for maps or outright relying on them. i have a laptop with gps but i still get old school directions like from mapquest or google maps or even other people. and use the gps to help me see if i am indeed coming to the turn or exit the directions stated. but if my gps was to fail and it has or simply give misdirection i still have my direction i wrote down or a plain old map.

The Problems with GPS (1)

kilodelta (843627) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094638)

Part of the problem with GPS units is that they charge almost as much for map updates as they do for the GPS unit itself. In my case my TomTom cost $99 and the map updates are $84.

The other problem is even the map updates are frequently best guesses.

And rental companies are notorious for issuing un-updated GPS units. Back a couple of years ago, I flew into Norfolk, VA and rented a car. The GPS unit wasn't aware that they'd moved U.S. 17 so much of the time it showed the car as driving over water. I just followed the signs for 17.

And more recently coming home from North Carolina my TomTom was trying to tell me to get off I-95. I finally shut little Miss Navigator off and we got home just fine without her.

Re:The Problems with GPS (1)

Iphtashu Fitz (263795) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094732)

Do a little research on the net and you can find updates for many GPS units available for free at sites like http://gpsunderground.com/ [gpsunderground.com]

Some people don't like cracking utilities (1)

apparently (756613) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094888)

Installing pirated maps requires running an executable to patch your GPS. So not only do I have to worry about said executable having a malicious payload that could effect my PC (granted I could run it once in a VM), I have to worry about said executable having a malicious payload that could effect my TomTom. That, and I have to hope that the pirated maps haven't been screwed with by a merry prankster. Other than that, great suggestion!

One Problem, One Question (1)

apparently (756613) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094640)

Problem:

Near where the road ends, Nattrass followed the tire tracks that turned onto "a closed road in the wilderness area going over several small bushes and rocks lined along the road to designate closure," her report says.

Pro-tip! "Small bushes and rocks lined along a road" do not "designate closure." You know what designate's closure? A fucking sign that says "Hey asshole, this road is closed, back your shit up or get fucked." Humans have been communicating with pictures since at least the Paleolithic, like actually discernible drawings: cavemen didn't settle for taking a dump on a wall, sticking a leaf on top, and being satisfied that said configuration designated "auroch."

Question:

Things went more smoothly with TomTom, a major manufacturer of GPS units for cars. "I had a representative right here. He was real professional. I was able to sit down and say, 'Nope, that doesn't exist,' " Callagan said. That representative was Matthew Rinaldi, a geographic sourcing analyst for the company. "I knew there were issues in Death Valley, consumer-wide, for all GPS devices, not just TomTom," Rinaldi said. In all, Rinaldi said he made adjustments to 185 Death Valley road segments in the company's navigation database and removed about 50 altogether.

So I have to fork over a few bucks to TomTom so that their GPS won't kill me? Thanks TomTom! You can GoGo FuckFuck YourselfYourself.

who can forget the nightmare of james kim (5, Insightful)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094672)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Kim [wikipedia.org]

this story haunts me. because i could have done this. any of us could

and for those of you assholes talking about the darwin awards or death by stupidity: i think arrogant hubris is a pretty good candidate gene for being weeded from the homo sapiens gene pool. when stories like these arise, there's two types of people: those who feel saddened at a pointless death, aka, human beings, and those who think that the occasion is an opportunity to trumpet how smart they are, aka, assholes with an ego problem and lacking empathy

you're so fucking smart and immune to tragedy, huh? until a tragedy happens to you or yours. try showing some basic simple respect for the dead, asswipes

We have to design for actual people. (1)

monk (1958) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094708)

The same problem was there with people using old or inaccurate maps in the past, but there is a definite tendency for people to believe that GPS systems are somehow more accurate and up to date. It's irrational, but it's a real phenomenon.

Actual people will do irrational things. Pretending that people are fundamentally rational beings is irrational in itself. We have to design devices to assume irrational behavior and to take advantage of natural tendencies.

I suggest a GPS that "sounds" stupid. Something that gives verbal queues that it should not be trusted too much. We can use some well known politicians as voice talent. On the other hand, I suppose their success invalidates my theory.

Only bad tech is the linked page. (3, Interesting)

MDMurphy (208495) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094730)

I tried reading the article, the screwed up page with all it's toolbars, ads and such kept refreshing after a few seconds and jumping to the top of the page. I was interested enough to go to the printer-friendly link an be able to finish the article.

It's unfortunate that the article and summary talk about "inaccurate GPS" while giving examples of inaccurate or for the most part imprecise databases. It sounded like someone getting lost and blaming the compass when it was the tourist map from the gift shop that was at fault.

Just checked to make sure, the 8 year old Garmin in my car has the option "avoid unpaved roads" as I don't have a 4x4 I have that option checked. If I wanted to go 4-wheeling I guess I could let it route me on those.

Idiots who drive for miles in the desert on a gravel road when they are ill-prepared for it are no different than the ones who drive off the pier when their Nav unit was trying to lead them to the ferry. There's always going to be idiots, now they're just ganging up to blame their gadget for their problems.

Natural Selection (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35094742)

Perhaps this is natural selection at it's best...

It ain't the *GPS*, it's the SOFTWARE and MAPS.... (2)

macraig (621737) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094744)

This is highly misleading. What IS a "GPS"? It's NOT the whole unit, it's JUST the receiver, yet people - even people who should know better - persist in mis-labeling the entire device as a "GPS". What got the people described in this article in life-threatening trouble was NOT the GPS, it was the software and maps, which were of a type completely unsuited to an undeveloped wilderness area.

Had the ignorant people described in the article had a GPS receiver with the right device, software, and maps, for instance TOPO USA or the outdated Outdoor Navigator, then they likely would have survived and found their destinations in good (or better) health.

Re:It ain't the *GPS*, it's the SOFTWARE and MAPS. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35094770)

It's true, but you meant what is "a" GPS?

Guess I'm just old-school (1)

LordKronos (470910) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094764)

I do lots of traveling, and almost always by car (longest trip was a 3.5 week, 10k mile road trip). I take my GPS with me on every trip, and it almost never even makes it out of its case. I always take a US atlas with me as my primary means of navigation. If I'm going to be doing extensive travel off the main roads, then I also take one of those state atlases that has 100+ pages of maps dedicated to a single state. Otherwise I do a bunch of printouts on google maps of areas I expect to go. When I use the GPS, it's usually just to give me an idea of what sort of services are around. If the next town is 10 miles off the exit, then I might break out the GPS just to see if they have a restaurant listed, or if I'd just be better off waiting for the town 40 miles down the road but right next to the expressway. Only one time have I used a GPS for navigation, and that' because I was on a very confusing group of dirt backroads. I was able to trace my progress for about 20 miles but then there were a few crossroads that weren't on the detailed maps and no signage saying which road was which, so I used the GPS to confirm that I was actually where I thought.

my navigation folly (2)

fred fleenblat (463628) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094784)

i tried to navigate with my iPad the other day. i entered an address very quickly and easily using the virtual keyboard. it pulled up a beautiful map on the big responsive touchscreen, computed my route faster than a garmin could and told me to start off by turning right at the end of my driveway. perfect, off i went! i knew it was not going to work, but i wanted to see the failure mode anyway. once i got going it kept saying something along the lines of insufficient GPS signal. i though that was funny because it's a wifi-only model that doesn't even have a GPS chip in it.

Navigation before tools (3, Insightful)

SpaghettiPattern (609814) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094794)

I'm doing a skipper course where navigation and calculating water levels are the most stressed topics. I quickly realised that going to sea without training will get you killed pretty soon and very certainly. Same holds for deserts and wilderness in general. Hell, there are cities where you get killed if you wind up in the wrong 'hood.

The thing is that so many times all will be well with a car, a desert and a some navigation gadget. Taking care of the exceptions is the hard part. Very much like coding.

The opposite happens too (1)

steveha (103154) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094816)

Sometimes people get really lost and a GPS could have saved them.

In particular I am thinking of the story of James Kim [cnet.com] and his family. In December 2006 they were driving south in Oregon, and they missed their planned exit. It was almost an hour of driving later before they realized they had missed the exit. Not wanting to waste another hour by doubling back, they got off the highway and took a road that looked okay on their map, but was pretty much impassible in winter. (In fact there was supposed to be a gate closing off the road with a sign saying "Closed in Winter".) They ended up stuck, completely outside cellular phone coverage areas, with nobody having any clue where to look for them, and no emergency food or clothes in the car. After a week (a week! no food, only snow for water, two adults and two children, imagine how horrible it must have been!) Mr. Kim made the decision to set out on foot and try to find help. He froze to death, but fortunately a search helicopter spotted the car and the rest of the family was saved.

I have always figured that a GPS could have prevented this tragedy; with a GPS they wouldn't have missed their exit, and if they did they would have realized it immediately and would have simply gone back and taken the intended exit.

Now, while I have no desire to say anything disrespectful about Mr. Kim, I do also wonder at their common sense. According to one report I read, they found the road to be difficult going, and they had to stop and get out of the car and move obstacles out of the road (fallen trees? I don't remember the details). Their common sense should have told them that this road was a bad idea, and they should have just turned around and backtracked before it was too late.

So, common sense could have saved them, or a GPS could have saved them.

The sad irony is that Mr. Kim was an editor on CNet and he reviewed gadgets like GPS navigators. But he didn't have one in his car.

P.S. Blindly trusting a GPS is also increasingly leading to trucks trying to go under low bridges, as in this story [npr.org] .

steveha

Why complain? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35094866)

"...they are willing to trust the GPS to lead them into the middle of nowhere."

Seems like GPS does exactly what they are trusting it to do...

I Never Fully Trust GPS... (2)

IonOtter (629215) | more than 3 years ago | (#35094894)

Encounter #1: Driving on I-95, going to from New York to Washington DC. Somewhere around the NJ/PA border, the GPS tells me to take the exit off 95. I look at the instructions, and it's telling me to get off the highway, go down a side-street, turn around, then get BACK ON 95 and continue. WTF?! I ignore it and drive past. It goes through it's "recalculating" thing, then tries to tell me to do it again. This continued for about 50 miles until I got far enough away from the alien machine intelligence rays that were telling it to try and kill me by routing me through the worst neighborhoods of Philadelphia and Baltimore.

Encounter #2: Interstate travel again. I follow it, and it takes me onto a "major highway" that goes through towns, villages and more stoplights than I have ever seen in my entire life. ALL of them red. I check through the settings, and apparently this route is the "shortest distance". I change that to "fastest" and recalculate. Oh, look! I've got to backtrack 4 miles to the turnpike.

Encounter #3: I wanna avoid Baltimore like the plague, so I route north along the loop to 70, then up to 81. I then take 81 to Binghamton. Straight shot, clear as a bell and lickety-split! The damn GPS keeps trying to route me onto 15 off Frederick, which is a 55 road of money-starved towns with lots of cops. I ignore it and carry on to Hagerstown to pick up 81, but it KEEPS TRYING TO BRING ME BACK TO 15!! I finally gave up and turned it off, since I knew where I was going, I was just using it for mileage tracking and timing. I later learned about "block zones", where you can eliminate areas you don't want the auto-route feature to go.

It is my opinion that the GPS manufacturers are:

1. In league with the petro companies, to get you to use up as much fuel as possible.

2. In league with big pharma, because by the time you get where you're going, you're going to need medication.

3. In league with the alien machine intelligence, which is thinning the herd of useless bipeds who are too stupid or too stressed out to survive the coming invasion and subsequent processing into energy pods.

In or out of the desolation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35094896)

The article implies that people are depending on GPS to get them into desolate spots. Wouldn't it be more correct to say that they are depending on the GPS to get the through or out of these desolate spots?

Gonna have to go with the old-schoolers on this and say grab a brain, learn to read a map, bring the correct one along and follow it. GPS can show you where it thinks you are but a real map can show you what's around you for miles and miles and if you've been following the map on the way in you'll be able to follow the map on the way out.

For everyone else, there's some prime retirement real estate on Mars for you to consider. You don't have to work anymore as they've found a virtually unlimited supply of quality fertilizer that they sell back to Earth.

Darwin Awards (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35094916)

Death by GPS or death by user IQ? Take a look at the 2008 Darwin Awards Winner: http://www.darwinawards.com/darwin/darwin2008-16.html

Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...