How can I Safely Use a GPS or Other Navigational Device?

Today, most drivers have a Global Positioning System (GPS) or another navigational device in their vehicle. Many drivers use a cell phone-based system such as Google Maps or Waze. Although navigational technology is helpful, GPS systems are also the source of a sizeable number of car accidents, injuries, and even deaths because they can be a distraction to the driver. Motorists who are involved in an accident caused by a distracted driver are urged to contact a Baltimore car wreck lawyer for assistance.

How Many Car Accidents are Caused by Navigation Systems?

Navigation system-related accidents fall under the category of distracted driving, as classified by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

NHTSA reports that in 2018, distracted driving fatally injured 2,841 people, including 1,730 drivers, 605 passengers, 400 pedestrians, and 77 bicyclists.

Distracted driving includes the following behaviors:

  • Talking or texting on the phone
  • Using a navigation system
  • Opening the glove box or retrieving items in the car
  • Changing the music or fiddling with temperature controls
  • Eating or drinking
  • Getting lost in thought or conversation
  • Allowing loud or active behavior in the car, such as children climbing or jumping

How Do Navigation Systems Distract Drivers?

GPS systems, especially those that do not have voice commands or that are cell phone-based, are not always easy to use. Drivers often need to manually enter addresses into them or otherwise turn them on and off, press setting buttons, and adjust the volume. With cell phone navigation systems, it is often difficult to position the cell phone at eye level, so a driver may continually look up and down or back and forth to see the directions on the screen.

In 2017, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety commissioned research into the effects of GPS systems on driving behavior and distraction. They studied both the visual, eyes off the road, and cognitive/mental demand of using navigation systems while driving. They also analyzed how much time it took drivers to complete a task using the infotainment systems in 30 vehicles that were manufactured in 2017.

For study purposes, completing a task in an infotainment system included interacting with the system either vocally or with a touch screen to program navigation, make a call, send a text message, or tune the radio, all while driving. Surprisingly, texting or talking on the phone were not the top distractions; programming navigation was the most distracting activity.

The study showed that programming navigation took, on average, 40 seconds for the driver to complete. In 40 seconds, the study noted, a driver going 25 mph could travel the length of four football fields. That is a lot of time for an accident to happen. The study also ranked the overall demand on drivers in these 30 vehicles with infotainment systems. Of the 30 systems, 23 were ranked in high demand, seven systems were ranked as moderate demand, and none were ranked as low demand.

AAA research has also found that the following four specific behaviors related to the use of navigational devices while driving contributed to accidents:

  • Entering an address or programming information into the navigation system
  • Muting the sound and relying only on the screen
  • Looking up places to get addresses or starting/destination points
  • Reacting too late to directions

It is shown that GPS systems and other navigational devices can also be a major source of driver distraction for all their convenience, negating the benefits they provide.

Tips for Driving Safely While Using a Navigational Device

No one is suggesting that navigational devices be banned from use while driving. However, many organizations such as NHTSA and AAA strongly encourage drivers to follow these tips for improving safety while using a navigational device:

  • Keep the sound on. If voice commands are available on the navigational device, drivers should use them. Some drivers like to turn the sound off so they can listen to music or talk. If the volume is turned off, the driver must look at the screen or cell phone to get directions. Taking eyes off the road for even a couple of seconds can increase the likelihood of an accident.
  • Use a device that has voice command technology for both entering and receiving directional information. Many devices allow drivers to enter destinations and addresses vocally and to get directions through a voice rather than strictly through a screen. Voice technology is not foolproof, but it can help make the use of GPS devices safer while driving.
  • Motorists should familiarize themselves with directions before driving. Having an idea of the routes beforehand can lessen reliance on a navigational device and decrease late reactions to directions, such as sudden braking, turning, or changing lanes.
  • Program destinations and other addresses into the device beforehand. Drivers should not enter addresses manually while driving. According to studies, it takes just under a minute to do so, but that is a long time for a driver to be distracted.
  • Pull over to enter information into the device. Parking lots, side streets, or highway rest stops are safe places to stop to program the device or look up addresses or places.
  • Drivers should have a co-pilot when possible. They can have a passenger program and follow directions from the navigational device. This will allow the driver to focus solely on driving.
  • Choose a navigational device that is easy to see. The screen in one’s car infotainment system is often much easier to see and follow than the screen on a cell phone or other stand-alone navigational device.
  • If a driver is using a cell phone or other stand-alone navigational device, it should be placed at eye level if possible. There are many car accessories available to mount these devices to make them easier to see and follow. This helps drivers keep their eyes on the road.
  • Drivers should know how the navigational device works before getting in the car. This may sound obvious, but some navigation systems can be complicated. It is not a good idea to figure out how to use the device while driving.
  • Motorists need to be aware of issues that will alter directions. Road work, construction, and accidents can close roads or alter routes. Drivers should not rely on a navigational device to know when roads or highways are not navigable. It is better to use real-time information, such as signs and electronic billboards to change the route if needed. Similarly, especially when using a navigational device at night, drivers should be extra careful about directions the device provides. There have been upsetting reports of GPS devices leading drivers into waterways, buildings, or nonexistent roads and bridges.
  • Drivers should not react suddenly to directions from the navigational device. Quick stops, turns, lane changes, or braking in response to device commands all can contribute to accidents. Drivers should turn around or stop only when it is safe to do so, and when it does not affect other drivers in any way. As noted, drivers should be familiar with routes and directions beforehand.
  • Drivers should enjoy the benefits of navigation systems but beware of the disadvantages. Navigational devices increase efficiency and reduce stress on drivers. However, they can also contribute to unsafe driving behaviors, resulting in harm to drivers, occupants, pedestrians, and other drivers.

What Happens if a Distracted Driver Caused My Accident?

Anyone involved in an accident that occurs because the other driver was distracted should consult a lawyer, obviously after they call 911, get medical help, and contact their insurance company. An insurance company may offer a certain amount for damages, but a lawyer may be able to recover full compensation for the medical, property, and other damages sustained. A lawyer can help prove liability in the case and navigate the legal process for the driver, occupants, and family members.

Baltimore Car Wreck Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Help Those Involved in Distracted Driving Accidents

If a distracted driver caused your accident or that of a loved one, contact the Baltimore car wreck lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. Our dedicated legal team will conduct a thorough case review and determine who is responsible for causing the accident. We will walk you through every step of the claims process and ensure that you receive the maximum financial compensation you deserve. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.

Our offices are conveniently located in BaltimoreColumbiaGlen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.