Thanks to Global Positioning Systems (GPS), getting lost is virtually a thing of the past. Motorists simply type in the address of their destination, and the GPS system tells them exactly how to get there, and how long it will take. It will even re-route the driver if there is an accident on the road ahead, or if he or she misses a turn or mistakenly goes in the wrong direction. Drivers who are old enough to remember what it was like before GPS and Google Maps often wonder how they ever got anywhere. Although this technology has significantly improved the way drivers get from one place to another, GPS can also be a major distraction. In fact, according to a 2017 study commissioned by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, programming navigation systems was the most distracting activity for drivers, even more so than texting while driving. This can cause serious distracted driving car accidents. If a motorist is injured in a distracted driving accident involving another driver who was checking his or her GPS, the driver should contact a skilled lawyer as soon as possible.
How Do GPS Systems Work?
GPS navigation systems are widely used by motorists across the United States and around the world, and have been described as the most precise navigation system ever invented. It is a global navigation satellite that provides motorists with information about location, velocity, and time synchronization. As GPS satellites circle the earth, they transmit signal information to GPS receivers, which take that information and use it to calculate the driver’s exact location.
Why Are GPS Apps So Dangerous?
There have been reports of drivers who, when following directions provided by the navigation app Waze, ended up turning onto train tracks or driving off the end of a ferry into an unfamiliar area. Although these are extreme examples, motorists can easily become confused or disoriented when driving in an unfamiliar or dangerous area, particularly when it is dark outside. In addition, some navigation apps and GPS systems offer a range of warning features. For example, the Waze app will alert the driver that a police officer is parked up ahead conducting speed checks. These navigation systems can also alert the driver when they are approaching a traffic jam, car accident, or construction zone. Each of these features are meant to be beneficial to the driver, but require them to input certain features manually. If a driver does this while driving, this results in a significant amount of time that their attention is off the road.
What Are the Distracted Driving Behaviors Specific to GPS?
According to the public relations manager for AAA, in-vehicle technology has its benefits, but when motorists use their GPS while driving, it increases the risk of a car accident. The following are examples of distracted driving behaviors associated with GPS technology:
- Programming the GPS while driving is just as dangerous as texting. Most motorists understand that texting while driving is extremely dangerous, but they do not make the connection that it takes just as long to program the GPS as it does to send a text.
- If the driver turns off the sound on the GPS in order to listen to music, they will need to look at the GPS system more often, which means that their attention is not on the road ahead.
- Drivers often look up locations for specific places on the GPS while driving. According to a survey by I Drive Safely, 51 percent motorists said that they look up directions while driving, and 18 percent said that they look up the locations of stores, restaurants, or bars while they are driving.
- Missing a turn or reacting too late to GPS instructions can cause the driver to make a sudden turn, slam on the brakes, or suddenly change lanes, all of which can cause serious accidents.
What Can Drivers Do to Stay Safe While Using a GPS?
GPS systems are a safe and convenient navigation tool, particularly when drivers take the following simple precautions:
- Install GPS mount at eye level: Some newer vehicles come with GPS systems already installed. If the motorist is using a phone app such as Google Maps, install a mount for the phone at eye level so that they do not have to constantly look down at the screen.
- Understand how the device works. Motorists should familiarize themselves with the device before they get behind the wheel.
- Ask a passenger to help. If the destination address changed or the driver has to shift his or her gaze off the road to see the screen, the passenger can type in the new address or hold the phone up higher so that it is at eye level.
- Stop the car if necessary. The driver should find a safe, well-lit spot to make changes to the route. If the driver cannot safely pull over, they should use the voice text feature to enter the new destination rather than typing it in, which takes their attention off the road.
- Plan the driving route. Even if the driver is using a GPS, it is always a good idea to become familiar with the route ahead of time so that he or she is prepared for any detours, construction, or traffic.
- Keep voice direction turned on. Listening to the GPS system’s voice directions allows the driver to keep their eyes on the road at all times. Some motorists, especially teen drivers, may turn the voice direction off so that they can listen to music. However, this increases the risk of a car accident, since the driver will need to check the screen more frequently, which means their eyes are not on the road.
- Pay attention to traffic signs. Traffic signs can change unexpectedly. GPS systems do not always pick up these changes. For example, a GPS system may direct the driver to take the next right turn, but if the road has been closed because of a fallen tree, the GPS will need to re-route the driver. Motorists should pay close attention to the road, traffic signals, and any other traffic signs.
- Check for road updates. Motorists should not assume that their GPS system instantly tracks everything while on the road. It is up to the driver to keep the firmware updated to avoid mistakes when travelling to the destination.
How Common Are Distracted Driving Accidents?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA), in 2016, 3,450 people were fatally injured in distracted driving accidents, many of which involved motorists who were talking on the phone at the time of the accident. Although many believe that talking on a hands-free headset is a safe way to use the phone while driving, the National Safety Foundation found that the brain remains distracted regardless of whether a handheld phone or a hands-free headset is being used. These accidents are caused by visual distractions, manual distractions that cause the driver to take his or her hands off the steering wheel, or cognitive distractions that cause the driver to lose focus. In addition to talking and texting while driving or fiddling with the vehicle’s GPS system, distracted driving accidents are associated with eating or drinking while driving, putting on make-up, reaching for something on the floor or in the backseat, or interacting with other passengers in the vehicle. The following are additional statistics related to distracted driving:
- Each day, more than nine people are killed and over 1,153 people are injured in car accidents involving a distracted driver.
- The average text message takes a driver’s attention off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, which increases the risk of a serious car accident by 23 percent.
- The NHTSA found the following statistics from 2018:
– Approximately 23,000 people were involved in distracted driving-related car accidents.
– More than 2,840 people were fatally injured in distracted driving accidents.
– Close to 10 percent of all fatal accidents since 2013 involved a distracted driver.
Los Angeles Car Accident Lawyers at ACTS Law Represent Victims of Distracted Driving Accidents
If you or someone you know was seriously injured in a car accident involving another driver who was distracted by his or her GPS system, you are urged to contact the Los Angeles car accident lawyers at ACTS Law as soon as possible. Distracted driving is a serious problem that can result in devastating injuries, and GPS systems are one of the top causes of distracted driving car accidents. Our experienced legal team will assist you with every phase of your case and address all your questions and concerns. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 833-ACTS-LAW or contact us online.
With offices located in San Diego and Los Angeles, we serve clients throughout Southern California.