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Transportation United States Technology

'Death By GPS' Increasing In America's Wilderness 599

An anonymous reader writes "Every year, more and more Americans are dying in deserts and wildernesses because they rely on their GPS units (and, to some degree, their cellphones) to always be accurate. The Sacramento Bee quotes Death Valley wilderness coordinator Charlie Callagan: 'It's what I'm beginning to call death by GPS ... People are renting vehicles with GPS and they have no idea how it works and they are willing to trust the GPS to lead them into the middle of nowhere.'"
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'Death By GPS' Increasing In America's Wilderness

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  • by Sponge Bath ( 413667 ) on Thursday February 03, 2011 @03:35PM (#35094202)
    GPS is just a theory. I subscribe to Intelligent Directionism.
  • by Iphtashu Fitz ( 263795 ) on Thursday February 03, 2011 @03:45PM (#35094384)

    I was in the US Coast Guard from roughly 1990 to 2000, and GPS quickly became a very popular alternative to the older LORAN-C system used by recreational & commercial boaters alike. I did a number of patrols in Boston Harbor, which has a few very shallow spots in it. There are a couple places in particular where there are rocks just below the surface of the water at low tide, but if you have even the most basic level of understanding aids to navigation (bouys, etc) it's very easy to avoid those spots. There's one spot south of Logan Airport called "lower middle" that has rocks just below the waterline, but well marked channels guide boaters well around both sides of it.

    I still clearly recall one summer day when we were on patrol and saw a small boat moving slowly through lower middle, pretty much directly toward where we knew the rocks were. We sped towards them as quickly as we could and tried to get their attention, but before we could we saw the unmistakable result of their boat hitting the rocks at a slow speed - the boat lurched a bit and the back kicked up noticeably. By the time we got close enough to them without putting our own boat in danger we could see oil starting to leak out around their engine.

    When we told the operator that he was well outside the marked channels and that he had struck a rock that's clearly marked on all navigation charts, he simply replied, "Well my GPS told me to turn left here."

  • by Lucas123 ( 935744 ) on Thursday February 03, 2011 @03:46PM (#35094410) Homepage
    He'd hold two sticks up to the sun, determine his location and time to destination ... then eat a few grubs and squeeze a shot of water from some animal dung.
  • by SharpFang ( 651121 ) on Thursday February 03, 2011 @03:55PM (#35094556) Homepage Journal
    Reminds me of a background element in the "Girl Genius" comic.

    A candy dispenser ball, filled with candies in big glass sphere, and a pretty poster over it, written in big friendly colorful letters:

    Illiteracy reduction program
  • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Thursday February 03, 2011 @03:59PM (#35094654) Journal

    Yep. Natural selection is still alive & well - assisted by computers giving bad directions. Reminds me of that Office episode:

    GPS: "Turn here."
    "Michael that's a lake!"
    "But the GPS said turn here, so I'm turning here."
    (vroom) - (splash)

    When I was in Salt Lake city I tried to take an old road parallel to I-80, but when it started beating my car's suspension said "Screw this" and turned around. You have to use the computer God put in your frakking head!

  • by plover ( 150551 ) * on Thursday February 03, 2011 @04:18PM (#35094960) Homepage Journal

    So if you're up there on those wintery roads and bored out of your mind, try this: Drive your OnStar equipped vehicle to the middle of a large frozen lake. Press the button. Continue driving in straight lines, occasionally stopping to make square left and right hand turns. Talk to the nice lady from India (or Southern California) who has never seen ice in any amount larger than a water pitcher, and tell her you're kind of lost.

  • by bornyesterday ( 888994 ) on Thursday February 03, 2011 @04:18PM (#35094964) Homepage
    You awaken in a poorly lit room, with a closed door on each wall. By your side is a GPS device. You turn it on and ask for directions to go home. It tells you to head east and indicates the proper direction with an arrow. You turn in the direction of the arrow, which adjusts to match your new heading. You open it and enter another room. The door shuts behind you. It is pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by a grue. The GPS continues to point you forward. What do you do?
  • by bluefoxlucid ( 723572 ) on Thursday February 03, 2011 @04:25PM (#35095074) Homepage Journal

    So, they used paper maps, didn't read them correctly, thought a town was 4 miles away when 16 miles away was a closed lodge, ignored warning signs about snowy roads, decided to not take a major interstate in bad weather, then didn't have the sense to turn around when the weather proved bad (this has happened to me, I've taken a route and said "fuck this going another way").

    This is a tragedy indeed: he already has 2 kids.

  • by RobertB-DC ( 622190 ) * on Thursday February 03, 2011 @04:45PM (#35095364) Homepage Journal

    Talk to the nice lady from India (or Southern California) who has never seen ice in any amount larger than a water pitcher, and tell her you're kind of lost.

    No need to work that hard, just do what I did. Run out of gas in West Texas, say between Childress and Quanah [goo.gl]. Make it on a sunny 100-degree-plus Sunday afternoon in the middle of summer. You, too, can have a conversation with OnStar like I did!

    Me (sheepish): I ran out of gas.
    OnStar: We'll send someone right out.

    Time passes...

    OnStar: Sir, we show you near Childress, Texas, but I don't have any facilities there. What's the nearest larger town?
    Me: This is West Texas, Ma'm. There are no larger towns.

    They ended up sending out the county sheriff with a five-gallon jug of gas.

  • by Walt Dismal ( 534799 ) on Thursday February 03, 2011 @08:18PM (#35098678)
    Hungry bears are buying GPS jammers and quietly laughing.

C makes it easy for you to shoot yourself in the foot. C++ makes that harder, but when you do, it blows away your whole leg. -- Bjarne Stroustrup