The GPS Made Me Do It!

A driver in Nashville crashed his car on Tuesday, blamed his GPS unit for the crash, claiming that it told him to do a U-Turn, so he did. #TheGPSMadeMeDoIt

I hear stories like this all the time and whilst I know from experience that it i easy to get too relaxed when using car navigation, a quality car navigation application is likely to have an instruction along the lines of “When safe, make a U-Turn. Clearly it was not safe.

GPS Warning

GPS Car Nav Warning Screen

Car navigation devices also typically have a warning, like this one from my car. If you don’t click on OK and accept the warning, it won’t even let you enter the address you want to go to.

As parents often ask their kids, “If someone told you to go jump in the lake, would you do it?” If the answer is yes, it may provide recognition that you are not old enough or mature enough to hold a car license.

When people blame their tools rather than take responsibility for their actions, perhaps it is time to ‘Go directly to jail, do not pass Go and do not collect $200.’

Go to jail

Go Directly to Jail


Don’t Run the Red!

I can’t believe the number of people who run red lights in Auckland. On Friday I thought I might keep a list for a week of all the people I witness driving through red lights at intersections. I had to give up because there were way too many. In 1 1/2 business days plus a weekend I have watched more than 30 cars drive through red lights, one of which was a young woman (I’m being polite) who only just missed plowing into me. I could just about count the freckles on her face and see the colour of her eyes as she looked at me as she drove past.

There is a horrendous TV advertisement showing a dark Stephen Kingtype carny guy spinning a Lotto style Winning Wheel at an intersection and a shot of a car driving straight through the driver door of another car at an intersection as the wheel stops on ‘Death’. Several people have commented on how scary the advertisement is, but it doesn’t seem to be stopping people from doing this. Just 5 minutes ago on my way back to the office, I stopped at an orange light and about 4 seconds after I stopped an Armourguard van sped past me on the outside lane just missing traffic on their way through a red light. 2 seconds later and it would have been a major accident involving at least 3 cars who wouldn’t have had a hope of seeing him. I was so shocked I forgot to get his registration number.

On the 2nd of January this year (a public holiday when you wouldn’t expect city traffic to be in a hurry) in one intersection in Auckland City 418 vehicles ran the red light! I’m sure Tristram Ave and the Constellation Off Ramp on the Northern Motorway would rival that. This morning while waiting to get through that intersection 2 lots of 4 cars blocked the main highway by driving into the intersection when there was nowehere for their cars to go.

Another report said that in a 20 day trial in Auckland of 10 intersections, there were 341,000 incidents of red light running. It went on to say that over 5 years from 2000 to 2005 in Auckland city there were 399 crashes due to people running red lights! How can so many people be so thick. It doesn’t matter how you rationalise it, it is like playing Russian Roulette. People may be in a hurry, late for an appointment, busy texting and don’t look at the signal in time, personally I don’t care what the reason is, there is none that is acceptable yet people do it in their thousands, every day.

This isn’t new and it isn’t limited to Auckland as some would like to think, but given that probably half of the nations cars are in Auckland, there will be more. But in a study in Dunedin in 2004, a 3rd of crashes at traffic light controlled intersections involved people driving through red lights.

There are lots of studies around the world on this subject by transport authorities, by councils, by insurance organisations including those that support red light cameras and those against. The thing is, if people used common sense, this situation wouldn’t occur in the first place.

The chances are that somewhere in Auckland today, someone will be seriously hurt or injured because someone drive through a red light. The same will happen tomorrow. How would you feel if the victim was your child, your mum or your dad? How would you feel facing the victim’s family in court and how would you feel for the rest of your life if you were the driver who was in a bit of a hurry?

There is no excuse, no reason, it can have terrible consequences and yet thousands of people within 10km of where I sit writing this will be doing it in the next 2 hours! Stop and think people. The next victim could be someone you know and love.

Why were there so many accidents in New Zealand last week?

This month to date there have been around 32 road deaths in New Zealand compared to 15 at the same time last year. The crazy thing is that the weather has been awesome. Unlike right now as I write this blog, and it is blowing a gale with a little precipitation, it has been warm, dry and perfect driving weather.

Last week I drove to Hamilton during the day on business. I passed 4 major accidents over a period of 3 hours and saw lines of congestion that averaged 2-3km of stationery traffic during a normally quiet time of day.

If you are reading this in the US, you might consider 32 road deaths as a pittance, but consider for a moment that there are less people in the whole of New Zealand than there are in many US cities. Most cars are relatvely new and feature power stearing and at the least anti-skid break technology, so there is no reason for multiple car collissions in these nice weather conditions. Our maximum legal speeds on our freeways is a mere 100 kmph and most people drive close to that.

I haven’t seen any statistics yet, but I am sure that the coroners will back up my theory. I suspect that a large number of people were in the process of text messaging and not paying attention to the road and other cars. Every time I drive I see literally dozens of people with one hand and eye on the road and the other on their phone. It’s a national disease. There is discusison about devices such as car navigation being a dangerous driver distraction, but as a seasoned user, I rarely look at my device when I am driving, I listen to the instructions. SMS is much more dangerous and distracting.

I don’t know what the usage statistics for SMS are in NZ, but with accounts allowing 2,000 free messages a month and services such as the ability for consumers to send a message to up to 15 recipients at a time, the numbers are mind boggling.

So my theory as to why so many people crashed and some of the 32 people who needlessly lost their lives on our road so far this month, is that they were sending or receiving text / SMS messages.

Seems funny now to think of the coroner in London in 1890 something who said that never again must any person die from a motor vehicle accident (that was when the guy walking in front of the car with the safety flag was killed by the very car he was protecting pedestrians from).

Surely no message is worth dieing for?