Every few weeks another “Death by GPS” fatality makes news headlines. From the dozens of Death Valley tourists who make fatal turns down long-closed mining roads to anglers who make a wrong turn into the forest, more careless drivers are finding themselves in scary, sometimes fatal predicaments.
Is your RV GPS leading you down a dead end?
Think it can’t happen to you? Even experienced RVers who rely on their GPS device to help them navigate around low clearance bridges or hairpin mountain turns are finding that the devices aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be.
In a recent iRV2 Forums post called “Don’t Trust Your GPS,” member Jamie65 shared his own scary experience with his GPS:
Our Garmin 760 RV GPS took us on a country tour that turned into a very narrow road with a hair pin turn that we could not make without disconnecting the tow car.
After that with the car still disconnected I encountered another 180 degree hair pin turn that had me wedged in the turn on a very steep down hill in the rain, after pulling up and backing several times at only a few inches at a time I managed to get free. Not before denting and scratching the bottom of my rear lower panel on the Bus. Fortunately no bad damage, but after unhooking I neglected to wrap my cables because I was blocking the road and by the time I got to a highway where I could hook up the car, my brake air line was destroyed and my wiring harness is damaged, that I can splice until we get home. The air line I will visit a auto parts store and replace.
I have a definite love HATE relationship with the GPS, it has screwed me before but not this bad. Earlier on this trip it told me to take a right turn then left and then navigate OFF ROAD, this was a dead end road. Beware of the GPS.
Every RVer is at risk of doing dumb things with a RV GPS. To keep you and your rig safe, follow these GPS driving safety tips:
- Don’t hold the device while driving. In every U.S. state you can be ticketed under a “distracted driving” infraction for just holding a GPS device while driving. Always program the device before your departure. If you need to mess with it, pull over.
- Do not mount the GPS on your windshield. A recent Consumer Reports article says that the GPS enthusiast website GPStracklog reports that mounting a device like a phone or GPS on a windshield—including using the mount made for your device—is illegal in 28 states!
- Don’t rely on it as your only navigation tool. GPS is a convenience tool and like anything it’s not 100% foolproof. Consequently, only fools rely on their GPS when navigating unfamiliar terrain.
Many RVers like to plan their routes using RV LIFE Trip Wizard and then export it to their GPS system. The iRV2 forum discussion “Don’t Trust Your GPS” is packed with wisdom from experienced RVers who use their GPS device as just one of at least two different exploration tools:
Experienced RVers who use GPS devices offer their own tips, such as:
“Update before every trip, review every corner against a paper map before you start driving” – Skip426
“We rely only on the Rand McNally Truckers Atlas. Large print for old eyes. Red roads are generally a go but on occasion have chosen to avoid them. Our GPS is only a tool.” – Nana25K
“Aside from the obvious wrong road fiascos GPS routing will be constrained by the limits you put on it. If you say fastest it dives for interstates. IF you say most direct it looks at dirt roads going your way. That is why I always run a route on either Google or Street Atlas to see what my options are and adjust accordingly.” – nothermark
The iRV2 Discussion Forums have dozens of informative posts about which RVs are best for RVs. Be sure to check them out if you’re thinking of buying one or just want some insight from other RVers who have gotten into tight spots thanks to modern technology.
Often called “The O.G. of full-time RVing,” Rene Agredano and her husband Jim Nelson hit the road in a fifth wheel trailer in 2007, after their dog Jerry lost a leg to terminal cancer. Sixteen years later they are still traveling and sharing their nomadic adventures at LiveWorkDream. As a self-employed wordsmith, Rene shares her expertise for many RV industry videos, publications such as the Escapees RV Club Magazine, and has authored numerous books, including the Essential RVing Guide to National Parks, and Income Anywhere, a guide to earning money on the road. She has been featured in global media outlets including the PBS documentary “NATURE: Why We Love Cats and Dogs,” The Guardian Sunday Edition, and the Dan Pink book Free Agent Nation.