GPS is not an excuse to park your brain

I just finished reading an article that described how all of our electronic gadgets can have a detrimental effect on brain function.  The premise is similar to the scenario where people who only use calculators to do math lose the ability to calculate math problems without a calculator.  It is important to use some common sense when relying on electronic devices so that you continue to exercise your brain.  GPS navigation is a good example of devices in which some people place too much reliance.

I would find it hard to travel as I do without the use of GPS navigation.  It can be so useful when traveling in an area that is unfamiliar.  But it does not always pick the best route, even though the navigation computer may think the selected route is the fastest.  I frequently travel to the San Francisco Bay area and there are certain routes that I have traveled many times.  I always have my GPS running, but for familiar routes, I only use the GPS to give me distances to intersections.

Sometimes I choose a route that the GPS would not choose.  There is a particularly difficult transition in San Jose, California that my GPS likes.  When transitioning from the northbound US-101 to the southbound I-880, you are dumped into a lane that southbound I-880 drivers are trying to use to transition to southbound US-101.  It’s not an easy way to go.  I like to use Google Earth and Google maps to plan trips.  I looked at this particular trip and decided to take a different route.  Now, I have a waypoint programmed into my GPS to force it to select my desired route.

I have read articles describing people who relied on what a GPS suggested to them and it got them into serious trouble.  That’s likely to happen if to place your full faith in these devices.  Whenever I put an unfamiliar route into my GPS, I always look at the entire route it has chosen and I make the decision of whether that is the route I want to take.  A GPS can be invaluable if you miss a turn because it will say recalculating and it will have a new route for you very quickly.  This is much safer than having to look at a paper map while driving.

Sometimes you have to use a paper map.  I visited Venice, Italy last year and I brought my GPS along on the trip.  With the tall buildings and narrow streets, it quickly became apparent that the GPS would not be an effective way to navigate Venice.  I also had a paper map and that ended up being the best way to navigate.

So, while you may rely on a GPS device while traveling, don’t place your complete trust in it.  As smart as those units are, they don’t always pick the best way to go.

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