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Do GPS Devices Prevent – or Cause – Car Accidents?

Global positioning devices (GPS) are electronic devices that help drivers find their way in an unfamiliar city or area. Drivers can program their GPS devices with a specific route and the device will direct drivers from their door to their destination. Many cars now have these devices pre-installed and many drivers with older vehicles are getting the devices placed in their cars. GPS, however, has both pros and cons:

Con: GPS devices can steer you the wrong way. GPS devices make use of satellite information – just like a cell phone – and existing maps of an area. In areas that change frequently – such as New York City, for example – you can still get lost with a GPS device.

Pro: GPS devices can leave your hands free, since you don’t have to fiddle with a map. A GPS device doesn’t require you to check written directions or try to unfold a map. This can leave your hands free, which can be safer.

Con: GPS devices can be a distraction. It is possible for a driver to get into an accident and sustain a brain injury or other serious personal injury by fiddling with a GPS device. While GPS devices may be less distracting than a map, drivers may be reading the device instead of watching the road or may be adjusting the GPS instead of watching for oncoming traffic.

Pro: GPS devices can prevent you from getting lost. When they work correctly, GPS devices can help you avoid road closures and other road hazards and can ensure that you don’t get lost in an unfamiliar area. At a time when we are all worried about personal safety, this can be a powerful feature.

Con: GPS devices are not a substitute for watching to see where you are going. Watching the GPS instead of the road can still lead to an accident. Relying too much on the GPS can also be potentially hazardous, as there are many cues on the road – traffic, new construction – that drivers must pay attention to.

Pro: Many GPS devices have a voice feature that can mean greater safety. Some GPS devices do not require the driver to even look down at the device – a voice tells the driver where and when to turn.