Death by GPS: Do We Trust Satellite Navigation Systems Too Much?

Park rangers in Death Valley National Park have begun calling it “death by GPS” — visitors faithfully following their navigation devices turn down the wrong road or hike away from help and die before rangers can reach them. It really isn’t the GPS that’s the problem; it’s the maps in their navigation system’s database. Part of the problem is out-of-date maps and users who don’t know to update them. Many times, critical information was never entered into mapping databases in the first place. Still, it’s our reliance on technology that’s part of the problem. No one uses paper maps anymore, and ironically those maps are the very best way to navigate. Instead, we absolve ourselves from having to engage our thought processes, instead relying on a navigation system that’s clearly flawed. Deaths of people who follow GPS systems off cliffs, into lakes, and deep into the desert are mainly attributed to paying more attention to the navigation system than to what’s in front of them. While GPS are convenient, a good old-fashioned map can actually save your life.