• Sep 21, 2010
Starry Rhoads and her husband had a horrifying experien... Starry Rhoads and her husband had a horrifying experience when their navigation system led them astray (Starry Rhoads).

When Starry Rhoads and her husband John followed their navigation system's directions to take a road through Oregon's picture-perfect winter wilderness, they never once thought that their lives would be in danger. Marked as a through road by the aftermarket GPS device in their Toyota 4x4, it would eventually peter out to become little more than a rutted country pathway. But by this time, one of Oregon's famous snap snowstorms had blocked the road behind them.

"We got stuck for three days," said Starry Rhoads, describing the harrowing incident that occurred late last year.

??Rhoads said the couple, from Reno, Nev., had checked their route on maps beforehand and knew which way they wanted to go, but "the device had a mind of its own. There was no indication this should not have been a road we were on, there were cars on it, and signs, but after 20 miles there was no road.

??"At the time we turned onto the road it was sunny and clear and a beautiful day. But then it snowed a little. Next night it snowed a lot. The next night we didn't know an even bigger snow was coming, and if rescuers hasn't reached us that night, they told us we wouldn't have been picked up till spring."

Only As Good As The Map

Most new cars these days have at least the option of a factory-installed navigation system and aftermarket units hanging from windshields have become a common sight. Many drivers consider navigation systems essential to their daily lives. Garmin, the market leader for aftermarket units, forecasts sales of more than $3 billion for 2010.

Yet the Rhoad's experience will not be surprising to thousands of motorists who have been led astray by their navigation systems -- though usually it's more of a mild annoyance than a life-threatening mistake.

?Environmental factors often play a large part when these devices act up: Tall buildings, for example, can interfere with the signal relayed to the device from a satellite overhead, and result in jumbled coordinates and confusing directions. Like in the Rhoads case, weather can play havoc on rural roads than are prone to flooding or being blocked by snow during a heavy storm. If you live or commute through a growing community, new streets and neighborhoods that are rapidly evolving can also throw your GPS system for a loop.

"[With] obstacles in a large city, big buildings or long overpasses, those signals can bounce around -- for example it's been showing a straight line and suddenly it tells you to take a quick turn," said Jake Jacobson, a spokesman for Garmin.

He said the company issues new maps for its devices every three months, seeking to minimize the effect of new construction on its route maps. Users can sign up for new maps every quarter or for a lifetime of map updates at a reduced price.

?"A lot of it is common sense. It always helps to have looked at your route before you go and have a sense of your journey. I've heard of people who follow it [GPS instructions] blindly despite posted signs and the rules of the road. You don't want to drive through a police barricade," said Jacobson.

Google Maps and AOL's newly re-launched Mapquest service provide online route-planning services that can be printed out and examined before any trip. Garmin also offers its own free route-planning software called BaseCamp.

For some, however, nothing beats a paper map like you'd find at a bookstore or filling station. Rhoads pointed out that her GPS device only viewed short distances at a time, rather than, say, a full 1,200-mile overview of their trip, like you might plot with a traditional road atlas.

What You Can Do

Rhoads says that people should tell their friends or family when to expect them to arrive or come back from their trip, so if they are missed it can speed any alert of emergency services. She says thankfully they were prepared for their long drive with warm clothes, blankets, and food and water. "Without them we wouldn't have survived the snow-drift."?

Drivers in rural areas should routinely pack chains, shovels and blankets and extra food, water, high-energy food, extra clothing, and cell phones – though keep in mind that the more remote the location, the less likely you are to get a signal. Always let somebody know your itinerary.

??Even for general motoring, the emergency safety kit in your car should contain jumper cables, engine oil, de-icer fluid, a flashlight, emergency flares, a distress flag, a first aid kit, a pocket knife, water and snacks, blankets , gloves, scarf, hat, cell phone, ice scraper, shovel, tow chain or rope and a jack.?

Use Your Head

?Even after her experience, Rhoads says their navigation system has "served them well" in numerous trips in rural and metropolitan areas.

The Rhoads caught a lucky break when on their last night in the snow they picked up a weak cell phone network signal, allowing them to send their co-ordinates to the local police force, who forwarded it to rescue dispatchers.

"We should have listened to ourselves rather than the GPS. It seemed like a shortcut but it wasn't. Like anything else you have to rely on your own intelligence, you can't put blind faith in your GPS system. In the future I'll rely more on written maps or I'll stop and ask," she said.

"Human judgment is still the best tool," confirmed Garmin's Jacobson. "Our devices are a great source to help get from point A to point B whether cross country or daily commute, but we don't want to give the impression we want to turn their brains off when they turn their Garmins on."



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  • 246 Comments
      jblake807
      • 5 Days Ago
      "Whatever happened to common sense"? Yes, that's a very good question. Well, I'll tell you: it's just not COOL anymore. What's cool is to rely on electronics to do everything for you while you're busy drinking coffee, texting, reading a newspaper or online book, eating, doing your nails or makeup - in short, doing anything but what you're supposed to do when you're in a car. God help us and deliver us from the idiots - the roads are full of them.
      • 5 Days Ago
      You'd think the Hampton Inn in Danville, KY, which is right off a major highway in Danville, would be easy to find and a snap with a GPS. Think again. Our GPS, updated shortly before we left on our trip, took us into a middle-of-nowhere road and insisted that it was RIGHT HERE! We had to call them to find out how to wend our way back to them. And no, it was not a new construction. The hotel has been there for at least three years. So why can't the GPS in our Toyota find them? And people looking for our home, the only home on our side of the street, will find themselves lost at the other end of our development, looking for our house on the wrong side of the street. What's up with these things anyway? They're supposed to be so accurate because they rely on satellites to relay your position relative to the address you're seeking. They're worse than a map and a phone call to your destination used to be. We've gone back to using just that - paper maps for general information and phone call to our hosts/hotel for final directions. I NEVER trust the GPS anymore.
      laurelphot
      • 5 Days Ago
      If they checked out their propose route on maps. they should have programmed that route into the GPS. If you do not choose hiw you want to go, the other dumb navigator will choose for you,
      • 5 Days Ago
      GPS should have a tube to deposit your genes in, to see if you have any common sense !
      • 5 Days Ago
      These people allowed their story to be publicized to spare someone else the horror of what happened to them. For people to have the nerve to call them awful names and belittle them is BEYOND childish. You merely reveal your own awful lack of human kindness and a REALLY awful case of self-righteousness immaturity. I'm glad I don't have to live among people such as you are.
      • 5 Days Ago
      trust me people these gps systems are far from perfected ,i ride my atv a lot in the smoky mts, late one winter afternoon just about dark i was on one of my many atv trails deep in the woods when suddenly i came upon a new toyota camery sitting on the trail ,no one was in it so i starting searching the trails for the driver fearing he or she would be lost in the mountainous terrain as it was getting dark,after some time and distance as luck would have it they heard me when i drove up to them i ask if that was their car and they replied yes and i ask was in the bloddy hell are u doing in the middle of no where in a new car ...well you gussed it....WE WERE FOLLOWING OUR GPS they said the road disappeared some ways back but the GPS showed a highway a few miles down on what appeared to be a dirt road ,i said sure is ,but you have to have a 4wd atv to reach it ...lesson learned NEVER TRUST A GPS ESPECIALLY IN THE SMOKIES this was the 2 nd rescue i have done because someone was following what their GPS told them..yes common sense goes a long way..which both of these rescues the people had none..
      • 5 Days Ago
      We have lived in a coastal SC community for nearly 7 years and all GPS systems have NEVER given correct directions to get to our home all of this time. There was one couple that had to spend $300 to get towed out of a ditch that GPS thought was a paved road. I paid $160 for Garmin's lifetime maps and have found them to be a pretty worthless. Even restaurants that have been open for 2+ years are not there. I have been really tempted to contact Garmin and complain but, not sure if it is worth the effort. At the same time, however, I have used Garmin to get help me get "un-lost" and it did work much to my surprise. At best, GPS information reliability is consistently inconsistent. Unless it were a free option in a new car, I am not sure if I would buy another one. The GPS companies really need to fix this.
      • 5 Days Ago
      I have a Garmin and it serves me very well. But then again, I have been blessed with an abundance of common sense (probably got extra from those who have none). Many people have no idea even what direction they are traveling .. with the sun shining and early morning or evening! Duh .. they cannot even figure out the sun rises from the east and sets in the west!!! LOL Anyway, my Garmin serves me well .. because I always have a fairly accurate idea where I am going, which direction I am traveling, and what time of day it is. My Garmin is especially useful in determining when a particular EXIT ramp is approaching on a busy freeway .. and also helps me avoid highways if I so desire. I LOVE my Garmin!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      • 5 Days Ago
      his REFRIDGERATOR placed his life in danger
      • 5 Days Ago
      that is why there is a facebook page called Garmin got me lost. My Garmin wanted me to make a U-Turn on the freeway
      • 5 Days Ago
      I used a Magellan... that is until it took me either 6 hours out of the way or completely off my path... I usually do mapquest, and have a map with me for the just in case, but for the last little trip I decided to just go with the GPS because I had a little extra time and had directions by phoning home should I need them (and I did!)... NEVER AGAIN!!! I smashed the little POS GPS and mailed it to them with a nasty gram... Magellen is the worst GPS anyone could by! Always be prepared and NEVER rely on technology unless you have the time and supplies necessary (and the weather is ok and not deadly!)! Also, make sure people know what routes you are taking when you are traveling.
      • 5 Days Ago
      Must of been using a TOM TOM. I slung mine out the window its gotten me lost so many times. Ive had it.
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