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Not a highway
Before discussing the latest “bad driver made worse by GPS” incident, let's take a moment to remember the history of the Panama Canal: Once upon a time, people said “The only way ships can travel from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean is by going all the way around South America. That stinks. Let's dig a canal through the narrow part of Panama.”

So they did, then altered the maps to show how a little slice of former land was now a waterway. Nobody tried that in reverse order — let's alter the map so maybe we won't need to dig a canal — because in those days everybody understood that when a map says one thing and reality says another, reality always wins.

Unfortunately, too many people do not understand this nowadays, or at least don't apply it to GPS technology, which is why you so often read news stories like “Woman drives into lake because GPS said it was a road” or “Man drives into house because GPS said it was a highway” or even “Couple lost in the wilderness for days after GPS tells them unpaved logging road is actually the Interstate.”

The Mighty Susquehanna

So it's no surprise to learn that last week, Pennsylvania State Police made the acquaintance of a man who confused a state highway with the Susquehanna River:

Jacob W. Ash, 24, of Spencer, W. Va., was driving on state Route 2025 in Wyalusing Township (Homets Ferry Road west of Ferry Road) around 7 a.m. on May 22, police said.

The road continues to the river. According to police, Ash, who was following directions from a GPS device, did not see the river and drove into it.

Maybe that was Ash's problem — even when your GPS directions are 100% accurate, and if followed will direct your car onto roadways rather than into waterways, you-the-driver need to look at your GPS in addition to looking at the road, not in lieu of looking at the road.

Even when the road is genuinely there, you still need to watch out for everything from “other drivers” to “potholes and other obstacles,” none of which a GPS can tell you about.


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