GPS unit

A couple of days ago, I received a press release that Oregon State Police was "warning the public about the dangers of using GPS while traveling."

The release went on to state that "the phone-based mapping software or window-mounted GPS units cold lead motorists into a dangerous situation during winter months."

At the time, Highway 22 was closed between central Oregon and the Willamette Valley, so motorists were being urged to take Highway 20 through Sweet Home or Highway 26 through Government Camp.

OSP dispatch had received several calls from travelers attempting to take Highway 22 but were being rerouted by their GPS units onto Forest Service roads near Detroit.

"One motorist became stuck in the snow and the other ran out of gas," the release reads. "Often these Forest Service roads are not maintained in the winter and are snow-covered. Additionally there is little to no cell coverage in these areas."

The release also made reference to an incident that occurred back in 2006 when a tragedy occurred in Josephine County. The James Kim family followed GPS directions onto BLM land during winter conditions.

"The family became stranded and after two days, James Kim left on foot for help," OSP reported. "He was later found deceased due to exposure to the elements. The remaining members of his family were located and rescued."

The press release reminded me of something that happened about 10 years ago when I was living in northwestern Montana. My parents were traveling, pulling a fifth-wheel and headed toward Libby, Montana. To the west of Libby, there is a small town called Troy and south of there, Bull Lake.

While he should've just stayed on the highway heading north toward Troy, his GPS unit took him off the main road and around the lake. He ended up in some very tight spots on steep mountain roads, not exactly a place where you want to be with a fifth-wheel and in places where it's very difficult to turn around and go back. He made it out of there but I was just stunned that his GPS unit had directed him into that situation.

Whenever I go on a trip, I do use the GPS app on my phone, but I also map it out ahead of time on my laptop so I have an idea of where I should be headed. I haven't been directed down any isolated back roads, just to incorrect places in cities when I'm looking for a particular address.

Of course, I always have my trusty almanac in the vehicle with maps of all 50 states. A lot of the time, the ways of yesteryear work just fine.


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