Search, and rescue teams call it “Death By GPS.” It happens when a well-meaning driver follows poor directions from a GPS device and ends up in serious trouble. Despite the grisly name, not every victim dies from following bad directions from their GPS. But the name is a reminder of how high the stakes can be when you trust technology more than your own eyes and instincts. Here are some tragic stories from people who trusted their GPS more than their own common sense.
GPS Takes Couple On A Deadly Scenic Route
In March of 2011, Albert and Rita Chretien left Penticton, British Columbia, in their Chevrolet Astro Van. They were driving to Las Vegas for a convention and decided to take a more scenic route. Rita would later tell rescuers that they tried to use their GPS to find Mountain City, Nevada, but the device led them onto a dangerous and remote road high in the desert mountains. Their vehicle was quickly disabled, and they became lost and stuck.
Several days passed before their family discovered the two had never made it to the convention. The Chretiens never told anyone the route they planned to use. Without a clear location, search teams had to be mobilized across four states. It was such a vast area, searchers were eventually forced to abandon their efforts.
After nearly two months, hunters stumbled upon Rita clinging to life at the spot where their van slid off the road. Albert was missing. He had set off for Mountain City on foot to bring back help. It was almost two years before his body was found. He had made it seven miles, just over halfway to the town.
GPS Leads Family Into A Bad Neighborhood
It was October 2015, and Regina Murmura and her husband were meeting their daughter for dinner at a beach neighborhood in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
They were unfamiliar with the area and used the Waze app to find their way. Unfortunately, the Waze app led them into a perilous neighborhood where a local gang ambushed them. Regina died in a hail of gunfire, and her husband was barely lucky to make it out alive.
GPS Doesn’t Know That The Bridge Is Out
The bridge on Cline Avenue in Lake County Indiana has been closed since 2009, but in March 2015, Iftikhar Hussain’s GPS recommended it as his fastest route.
Hussain trusted the bad GPS directions more than his own eyes as he drove past concrete barriers, orange barrels and road closed signs. He drove his Nissan Sentra off the edge of an incomplete road. The car fell almost forty feet and caught fire. Iftikhar’s wife who was riding as a passenger and was killed. He survived.
GPS Leads Oregon Man On His Last The Fishing Trip
Investigators believe that on a fishing trip in Oregon, Silas Whitley relied too much on his GPS device and not enough on his own instincts. At one point in his travels, his GPS did a recalculation that put him on a challenging and remote road. It was there that after a weeklong search in August of 2015, searchers finally found his truck and then his body.
Death By GPS Death Valley Detour
Alicia Sanchez and her 6-year-old son Carlos were only lost for five days, but in Death Valley National Park, that’s more than enough time to die. Most Death Valley deaths are the result of dehydration and that was sadly the case in this instance. When a park ranger came across her incapacitated car in August 2009, the first thing Alicia said to him was, “my baby is dead.” He found 6-year-old Carlos slumped over in the front seat. Alicia was probably within hours of dying herself. She was just following her GPS unit, which directed her down the wrong road.
How To Avoid Becoming A Victim Of “Death By GPS”
These death by GPS stories are terrible, but hopefully will help raise awareness around this issue. The advice for avoiding Death by GPS is simple: Trust your gut. If a road seems unsafe, go back. Search, and rescue teams also recommend having paper maps that clearly mark passable and maintained roads. GPS directions are helpful to have, but traditional paper maps might help save your life.
At the end of the day, though, nothing can take the place of your own eyeballs. Follow all road signs and use common sense. If you see a road closed sign, don’t use the road. Your GPS won’t magically open it for you. Follow those common-sense tips so you won’t fall victim to death by GPS.
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Frank Wilson is a retired teacher with over 30 years of combined experience in the education, small business technology, and real estate business. He now blogs as a hobby and spends most days tinkering with old computers. Wilson is passionate about tech, enjoys fishing, and loves drinking beer.