G.P.S. not S.O.S.

“It’s a shortcut…The machine knows where it is going…” this is a part of a conversation between Michael Scott (Steve Carell) and Dwight Shrute (Rainn Wilson) in the season four episode four of NBC’s The Office. Scott says this right before driving his car into a lake, he does this because he listened too obediently to his GPS.

A Tool, Nothing More

The situation above was played for comedic effect; however, many people have actually driven into bodies of water or taking polar bear tours through the arctic after placing too much faith in their GPS. Now, a GPS is a very useful tool when navigating the road, or on the sea (on the sea it’s actually an essential item according to marine attorneys)—much easier then looking back and forth between a map and the street—but, it is still just a tool.

GPS 101

GPS mapBefore plugging in an address and pulling out you driveway, it is important to follow some useful guidelines for using this tool. GPS directions are not always 100% accurate, no matter how updated the maps are. There will always be an instant when the GPS is of by one or two houses, or even a street. Another useful piece of advice is to look up your destination first on a real map or using MapQuest or Google Maps (which also are not always accurate). This will allow you extra confidence in knowing where to go, especially if you are able to find an image of the location through the map tools.

Traveling Safety

One of the most important things to remember when using a GPS is to use caution when driving, stopping, and parking. Even if you are driving a short distance, you should ensure your gas tank is nearly full and your car has an emergency kit well stocked. Also, if you end up in a place that looks unsafe, and you cannot locate your destination, you should stay in the car and drive to a store parking lot. Once in a safe place you can look at the GPS maps and try to see where you are.

The Machine Does Not Know Where It Is Going

One last thing to keep in mind is that as useful as a GPS might be, it is not a person and does not have human logic or insight. When traveling with a GPS use your common sense and instincts to ensure your car does not end up in a lake or worse.