November 7, 2021

"The GPS in my car sometimes wants to veer off into off-road travel. Before I make a long trip, I always check the route on my cell phone map..."

"... so I know generally what roads I’m supposed to be on, and I also have a paper map in the car, just in case." 

Says a commenter on "Missing Oregon mom dead, daughter alive in Idaho forest" (WaPo)("the women... were driving to Utah and following a navigation system when they got lost in the northern Idaho forest").

47 comments:

tim in vermont said...

I was driving an RV once on I-95 in Florida, and the only place I could find for the night was in Ocala National Forest, this was the height of COVID. The GPS took me on sandy roads with puddles big and deep enough to hold alligators, across a dam with a one lane road on top of it, no place to turn around because I was in swampy forest, no cell phone service since I was so remote, and when I finally got to the campground, it was right where the paved road started again, and the guy at the gate said to me "I can't believe you came in from that direction."

At least I could have camped in the RV until somebody came along, had I gotten stuck. Fortunately I had enough experience to get up a head of momentum before going into the puddles, always sticking to the shallow side of the road, and never letting off the throttle until I was on the sand again. This was after dark too, so the the idea of wading in the puddles to get the depth with the kind of creepy crawlies that prowl Florida seemed out of the question. But I guess if I ran into a puddle that ran clear from one side of the road to the other with no hints as to how deep, I just would have camped there until morning.

When I got out of there, I felt pretty good about myself, and didn't wash the mud off of the camper. It was a symbol of pride and stupidity, all in one; kind of like the medals those guys in Stripes got.

Mike of Snoqualmie said...

The navigation system in my wife's 2007 Prius is awful. On a trip from Bellevue, WA (a suburb of Seattle) to Ashland, OR, the Nav system told us to travel down to Eugene OR, then veer off of I-5 and head to Klamath Falls, OR via OR58/US97. Then we take OR66 back to Ashland. The correct route is I-405 (about 15 miles) to I-5 (about 475 miles) to Ashland. Toyota didn't care about the erroneous route.

Updating the maps in the Prius requires a trip to the dealership and a charge of $100 (ca 2007). We've never done that.

There was a case of a family of 4 who were driving from the Willamette valley to the Oregon coast during winter. Their GPS directed them onto snowy Forest Service roads. They became stuck since they were driving a sedan without any kind of 4-wheel drive. No cell phone service. The dad left the car to go for help and died of exposure. The mom and kids were rescued after a few days.

Never trust a GPS route without verifying it if you don't know where you going.

Critter said...

On a trip across Italy in a rented car about a dozen years ago, I took my family through countryside roads leading to dirt roads leading to a farm tractor path leading to a dead end using the GPS that I was using. So much for taking the scenic route? We recovered after very carefully turning around to avoid getting stuck in a ditch with the low-clearance rental car. GPS needs to be supplemented by common sense, which my romanticized brain was lacking that day.

ga6 said...

Rand Mac still publishes the big book yearly. Buy a new one every two years and keep it in the trunk.

David Begley said...

My youngest daughter and were driving back from Madison via the Field of Dreams and somehow were ended up driving all over rural Iowa on county roads and state highways. I knew we were south of Interstate 80 and we finally got on it by Adventureland.

True story.

Heartless Aztec said...

Paper maps nothing. I never travel without a Delorme Gazetteer. I have all 50 of them for the States. I can wander and turn down any small meandering road and know just where it's going to come out. Used one for the Valley of the Gods Rd in Utah.

gilbar said...

my brother in law (like Most modern people) goes (without a thought) WHERE EVER gps tells him
"Because it's Quicker!"
If gps tells him to take an exit... He takes that exit.... "Because it's Quicker!"
He KNOWS that it's quicker.... because the gps TOLD him... And, the gps CAN'T be wrong

I on the other hand, doubt my gps.... And i notice, that it's OFTEN wrong
Last week, i was on Highway 61 (i've been on it before, so i guess i was Revisiting it)
The gps decided that, instead continuing on US-61 i needed to AVOID the bridge over county road D-55; and travel through downtown Zwingle. Which would have added 7 miles to my trip, plus Every stop sign in Zwingle (which, is like FOUR of them!).
Instead, i looked ahead, and saw that the bridge was, in fact, still there; and just went straight

gps MIGHT work good in Chicago (where my bil lives)...
it works soso in iowa; not understanding differences between highways and farm to market roads
gps works like CRAP in wyoming national forests, not understanding the differences between a 2 digit forest road (nice gravel), and a 3 digit forest road (4wheeldrive dirt)

Mary Beth said...

Knowing the route wouldn't have prevented the car from breaking down. The take-away should be, don't leave your car. Indicate your car is in distress by raising the hood and tying a white handkerchief (or something) to your car antenna. Then wait. (Obviously, there are exceptions that depend on what you know you passed recently, your physical condition, time of day and the weather, but overall, it's safer to wait.)

rhhardin said...

Three of my ten atomic clocks didn't change the time either.

who-knew said...

I like GPS, especially for the ETA function, but I don't understand people who are unwilling to argue with the machine. Admittedly, that's easier to do in the midwest where all roads basically run straight N-S and E-W, but still, you have a sense of direction, use it.

Jay Vogt said...

Sad news really for two women. Odd that The Washington Post would pick that story up, as there are from time to time remote tragedies here in the Northwest that don't get mentioned much. To anyone whose eyes are based in being raised in the the east or the midwest (mine included) the remoteness of this part of the country is pretty hard to imagine. Having recently moved here, it still takes some getting used to for me. And, being on a forest road in Idaho - well, they're gorgeous, but you could be on your own for a while.

Prayers to the deceased and the survivor for sure. But, there must be something else unusual about this story from the beginning. As it seems that they should have just been rolling down Interstate 84

Fernandinande said...

"The Turners’ family reported them missing after they took an “unusual route” through Idaho. Idaho State Police also issued an alert to be on the lookout for the missing women."

Joe Smith said...

Cue women driver jokes.

Although the men driver jokes are always about not using navigational aids...

FleetUSA said...

Almost sounds like the Tesla drivers getting killed by depending on the automatic driver function while watching movies or screwing.

Mom and daughter should have been watching and THINKING about the road signs they were seeing and not just following the GPS. When in doubt, stop and ask for direction or call a friend...

Ice Nine said...

She didn't die because of her GPS unit. She died because she didn't know how to use her GPS unit and then because her car broke down. You might end up somewhere you didn't want to be but it's damn hard to be "lost" if you have a GPS. If there's a road in, there's a road out - the one you just came in on. Pretty simple - New destination: Home.

Lem said...

Don’t believe the GPS hesitant claims of GPS malfunction…

Follow the GPS. My GPS is only second to Dr Fauci. 😉

Jersey Fled said...

When we switched to Apple phones last year we found that Google Maps, which my daughter used for years on her Android phone, would randomly locate her on the wrong road and tell her to make turns onto roads that were not there.

Switching to Apple Maps cured the problem.

Apple and Google don't play well together.

Robert Marshall said...

They were found by a hunter in the Solitaire Saddle area of the Panhandle National Forest in Idaho. That is about midway up the panhandle of Idaho, not too far from Canada.

Supposedly, they were traveling from somewhere in Oregon to somewhere in Utah. There is no route from Oregon to Utah which passes through anything in Idaho but its extreme southwestern corner, and any route is going to be generally to the southeast. Yet they were mostly north of any point in Oregon, and almost into Canada. Hard to believe anyone could be that far off track!

The only survivor being the mentally-retarded daughter of the driver, this episode will never be explained.

Tom T. said...

I can't access the article. What's the source of the assertion that they were following GPS directions? Given the implausibility of the route, it sounds like this was perhaps a sightseeing detour or even, God forbid, an attempted murder-suicide.

Mike of Snoqualmie said...

Another stupid GPS routing: I go to a local car wash, then go home. My Garmin wants me to leave the carwash at the rear of the carwash, drive up a 60-deg embankment, drive through the parking lot at the top of said embankment, then drive home on the city streets.

Trust, but verify!

Tom T. said...

I was once driving from Richmond Va. to Washington DC on a day when I-95 closed completely due to an active shooter. This caused the alternate, US 1, to become totally backed up. We told the GPS to find the fastest route, and it took us on a zigzag pattern through farms, suburbs, and industrial parks, and it got us home s lot faster than if we'd just waited. We were part of a caravan of vehicles all apparently doing the same thing. We stopped to use the bathroom at a rural convenience store, and the clerks were clearly overwhelmed by what must have been the largest crowds they'd ever had.

Yancey Ward said...

The GPS isn't the fault here- it was the car breaking down followed by the mother trying to walk out in mid Fall Idaho weather. A physical map might have been useful to prevent the latter part of the tragedy, but I can't tell from the article whether she got lost after leaving the car.

Yancey Ward said...

Tom T is thinking the way I am thinking about this story- that the mother was attempting a murder and/or suicide. I can't figure out how you end up in the Idaho panhandle traveling from Oregon to Utah- no GPS is that bad.

JK Brown said...

Well, first it's not the GPS, or the Global Positioning System. It is some digital mapping software that uses GPS. Mapping software that as far as I know has no industry standard so depends on the $1/hr programmer they hired to write it. No different than Boeing did with their software that flew their 737MAXs into the ground when they lost on sensor, all for the lack of a sanity check. You could get bad positioning if the satellite configuration gets bad due to birds going offline, but mostly its cheap software without sanity check or apparently any discrimination against a paved road and a dirt, disused fire road.

TA said...

I join Robert,Tom, and Yancey. Something's wrong with this story. Pendleton is on I84, which runs southwest directly to SLC.

Ann Althouse said...

"What's the source of the assertion that they were following GPS directions?"

The sheriff's office.

CWJ said...

GPS stories are a geographic version of the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. If map out driving instructions through an area you know, you might be surprised by how absurd the suggested route is. Ask for instructions in an unfamiliar area, and many people blindly believe that the GPS is doing a better job than in the areas they know.

Ann Althouse said...

"Mom and daughter should have been watching and THINKING..."

The daughter is mentally disabled.

Narr said...

Yes, get a DeLorme.

GPS is like the army-issued compass mentioned in an old Dick van Dyke show--the infamous Tate's Compass-- "He who has a Tates is lost."

About twenty five years ago I exited a bookstore one late afternoon and was approached by a tearful young woman who asked me the way to the I-40 bridge. I was suspicious but in truth she was driving her granny from Birmingham to Kansas City or the like, and neither of them had the slightest idea how to read the highway map they had. I was surprised they made it this far.

I gave her verbal instructions and asked to see the map. It helped a little when I turned it over to reveal the city maps, including one for Memphis. They were clearly impressed with my cartographic expertise.

I hope they made it, and feel somehow that GPS would not have helped much.

jaydub said...

You also need to check the settings on GPS units. For example if you select "no toll routes" you may get sent down a cart path to avoid a toll bridge, or if you select "most direct route" you may end up on a dirt road through farm fields. It's happened to us in Europe before we wised up. Apple maps are probably the most forgiving as regards setting screw up because they continually suggest alternate routes as you go which are faster or shorter, often giving you the chance to correct an erroneous setting. Another thing I do, particularly in European city old towns with very narrow streets, is preview the route using Google Maps street view to ensure the roads are something I want to take on - some are so narrow that you can't get past a narrow spot without someone getting out of the car and directing.

Deevs said...

Sad story. Regardless of how they got in that situation, it's a good indication of why it's good to have some emergency supplies and water in your car at all times. Of course, I don't know that they didn't have any emergency supplies with them. Still, I'd recommend having a small 72 hour kit and some extra water in your car. If not at all times, then definitely when you're on a long road trip.

rehajm said...

Just wait until the creeps at the new companies get brave enough to release full autonomous driving…that’s supposed to save lives.

Fernandinande said...

"What's the source of the assertion that they were following GPS directions?"

The sheriff's office.


As per the link above the sheriff didn't actually know that.

Iman said...

Mom had to be a blonde. There… I said it.

Indigo Red said...

I use GPS to find the nearest AAA to get a real map.

cfs said...

Always double check your GPS, especially if something just looks off. When traveling, ours often takes us through the worst part of town, or it did until I learned that it did not have my best interest at heart. It would send us through the industrial parks and Section 8 housing developments of towns. An older white couple driving through some neighborhoods at 11 p.m. at night, tends to attract the worst kind of attention. Also, as someone mentioned above, in an RV, you can end up in a place where there is no way to turn around. Our first couple of RV trips taught us that lesson.

Gary Rosen said...

A couple weeks ago I drove from the Bay Area to Long Beach to visit my son. I used the directions from my iPhone to get a route with the least traffic since of course LA is pretty congested. They were going to direct me onto I-710 when suddenly the voice said, "Accident on 710, take the Soto St. exit". It then directed me for about 2-3 miles on surface streets in a funky industrial/barrio area of LA south of downtown before getting me back on the freeway.

They need to have an option on the directions, "minimize chances of being carjacked".

KellyM said...

Similar thing happened to me and husband, driving from Indio, CA south towards the Salton Sea. We were looking for a cutoff to Borrego Springs, a small desert town in the Inland Empire area. The GPS/mapping software sent us through a new section of tract housing, right up to the point where the tarmac petered out, giving way to dirt and scrub. Luckily in our 4x4 Toyota it was no big deal, really, other than ending up in the middle of Ocotillo Wells offroad recreational area, and people on dirt bikes and quadracers were blowing by us in the dunes. We lumbered through, laughing for having followed the route that didn't really exist.


Freeman Hunt said...

It seems like the GPS directions service I use has recently gotten worse. It often offers up complicated routes on narrow back roads that are no faster than simple routes on main arteries. No, I do not want to make a dozen turns through residential areas just for fun.

A recent example: there is a highway that goes directly to the airport. The GPS directions said to take a bunch of dirt roads through farmland for a time savings of 0 minutes. No.

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Narayanan said...

as somebody wiseassly said last week or so : this is high-class problems

take the bus.

John henry said...

I had a GPS failure last Saturday.

I drove from Rocky Mount nc to cookesville TN. Easy-peas, I40 all the way.

Somewhere west of Knoxville, calling up a new podcast or something, I managed to clear the map. No problem I thought, Cookeville is just off the highway is small and how hard can it be to find the hotel.

So I get off the cookesville exit (I didn't know there were three and find myself driving around in the countryside in the dark with no dogmatic to call up the map.

Fortunately I found a burger King south wi-fi and got my map back. 10 minutes later I was in my Towne Suites hotel (Marriott and very nice)

Friday night I checked the route to Nashville airport to make sure I could find it if I had a similar problem in the morning.

John LGBTQBNY Henry

Rory said...

"As it seems that they should have just been rolling down Interstate 84"

It looks like I-84 intersects with US-95, which winds its way 350 miles north to not too far from where the ladies were found. It seems the deceased lady was 84. They may have gotten confused, ended up on US-95, and just kept going and going.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

There is no reason at all to drive from OR through any part of ID but the extreme southern corner to get to UT. They were far north, almost to Canada. I agree with Tom T and Yancey that this sounds more like murder/suicide than anything else. I'm glad that the daughter survived.

Ceciliahere said...

I noticed When traveling on Long Island that the woman giving directions on the GPS in my 2012 Mercedes only knew how to get to a destination if you started at JFK. I think she’s stationed in Berlin.

NotWhoIUsedtoBe said...

I've done the drive from Portland, Oregon to Durango, Colorado. It's entirely interstate highway until you get past Salt Lake City. There is a long stretch through southern Idaho, but there is no reason at all to go north. There is no reason at all to turn on to US 95 if you are going to Utah.

I'm sorry this happened, but it seems that two mentally challenged people didn't understand what they were doing. The alternative is that it was intentional, and that sucks too.

I taught my elderly mother to use the map application on her phone. The car GPS was complicated and bad. She has no problem getting around.

I drive for a living and occasionally Google Maps screws up, telling me to turn left on a street with a median and things like that. However, it's trivially easy to check that the destination is correct. I always do that to avoid accidental inputs. Also, there are these giant signs that tell me which road I'm on. The main thing is to focus on reality out the windshield and reject the phone screen when it's wrong.

I'm old enough to use a map, but generally it's not necessary. The big problem now is making sure the phone stays charged, so I have a vehicle charger and a USB battery.

PM said...

Bros I miss.
Smith Bros.
Marx Bros.
Thomas Bros.