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How My GPS Has Affected My Driving

September 14, 2010 · 76 comments

in Commentary, Life, Personal Finance

The other day, I was driving to watch my daughter’s high school volleyball game.  The game was at a school about an hour away, which is somewhat common for the league my daughter’s school is in.  (Most away games are at least a 30-45 minute drive.)

On my commute, I was thinking back to my own childhood.  Unless we were headed up north, we rarely drove outside of the county we lived in.  If we traveled somewhere further, we had to pull out giant maps, which also required the passenger to be navigator.  This would sometimes result in bickering, and then the inevitable frustration of trying to fold the map back up would follow.  Traveling to unfamiliar territory could be quite difficult.

Now, 30 years later, you can find wherever you want to go with the click of a button.  You can either go to what is becoming an archaic method and print a map out at Mapquest.  Or, you can plug the address into your GPS system and have the voice of your choice tell you when to turn, and how long it will take you to get there.  Not only that, but you can find local restaurants, gas stations, whatever you need.  It truly is a fantastic invention.

All of this technology has dramatically made traveling easier.  It also makes me wonder, if Mapquest/GPS did not exist, would our ‘world’ be as big?  Would we travel as far as we do, or would we still be somewhat limited in where we go?  I have 3 kids who all play sports, so I probably drive more than most.  Actually, my car just turned 2 years old and I already have 57,000 miles on it.  (Please, no hate mail over that.)   However, would sports clubs travel as far if it wasn’t so easy?  I have no idea.  All I know is that location does not intimidate me.  As long as I have the address, I will find it.  However, if I had to drag out a bunch of maps and end up getting lost half the time, I wonder if I wouldn’t travel to as many places.

So, what do you think?  Do you think the advancement in technology has caused us to drive more?  Has the ease of finding where you need to go encouraged you to travel to more places?   I know it has definitely opened up my world a bit more.

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Philip September 14, 2010 at 8:28 am

Interesting concept that it increases driving. I think some of that has to do with the area you live in. By living in a very large city you end up having to travel quite a bit more than those that live in a small town. Again in a small town you know where everything is but in a big city it is next to impossible to learn everything.

I know that I am more comfortable traveling into downtown when I have my GPS that I might have avoided if I did not have it.

It might also saves miles from driving around searching for where you want to go.


Kris September 14, 2010 at 2:51 pm

Philip – I do agree that a GPS probably does reduce the amount of random driving you do! I live in a suburb of a large city, so I love my GPS.

Thanks for commenting!


Nicole September 14, 2010 at 8:37 am

I love GPS. It has taken out a lot of fear from my driving. The one time I got into an accident it was because I got lost and was trying to retrace my steps and ended up making a blind right turn, which resulted in my bumper popping off with a passing large truck as I inched out to try to see the road.

I think we explored just as much before we got GPS, mainly because we’d get lost a lot. Getting lost on a leisure trip can be fun too and lead to interesting discoveries. But I still love the GPS. And Yelp. And all the things that make our exploring more planned.


Kris September 14, 2010 at 2:52 pm

Nicole – I agree with you, I love my GPS. It has led me astray sometimes, but has saved me countless times. (Especially with helping me to fired a bathroom! 🙂 )

Hope your accident was a minor one!


Kevin@InvestItWisely September 14, 2010 at 9:32 am

GPS helps when you’re in a strange area where you don’t know anything, but I find it hinders more than helps in the city. I know my way around traffic; the GPS doesn’t.

If the GPS warned me where the speed traps were, that would help. I remember in Korea when I rented a car, the GPS there knew the speed limit for every road and also knew where every single speed camera was. It would warn you as you approached each camera 😉


Kris September 14, 2010 at 2:53 pm

Kevin – Sometimes my GPS goes nutty. Especially when roads are real close together, running parallel. I hate when that voice keeps yelling at me!

I too would love that GPS in Korea that warned of speed traps. That would be fantastic. Sometimes I find I am speeding and I had no idea!


Little House September 14, 2010 at 9:58 am

I don’t use GPS systems, I’m still using MapQuest.com and printing out maps. However,I do see a downfall with GPS technology: many people are solely relying on it to get around even their own neighborhoods and they are becoming geographically challenged. Instead of memorizing a new route to a new place, they allow the GPS system to do it for them and never really learn the directions for themselves. So, I guess as long as people aren’t using them for areas they need to travel to regularly, then maybe they encourage people traveling farther than normal.


Kris September 14, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Little House – I use a combination of Mapquest and GPS. Especially if I know I will be traveling in the middle of nowhere, when I worry I will get that ‘satellite reception lost’ message.

I totally agree about people becoming too dependent. It is kind of like if I am following someone – I don’t even pay attention to the names of the streets or anything.


Suba @ Wealth Informatics September 14, 2010 at 4:28 pm

We have a GPS but I still print out every map we might need when we take a road trip. But personally for me, GPS has allowed me to explore a lot more than I would have done with just maps. We take interesting scenic detours with the confidence that we can always get back when we wanted. With maps without prior planning I would be very nervous to even slightly take a different route in a new place.


Budgeting in the Fun Stuff September 14, 2010 at 4:29 pm

Since Mr. BFS does a ton of driving for reffing, he has a GPS and loves it. I don’t travel much, so I use Google Maps. I was going to keep his 3 year old Garmin GPS, but I sold it for $45 on Craigslist instead to make up 40% of what we spent on his 1 year old Tom-Tom.

Google Maps works great for me the the 2-3 times a year I have to use it. Usually if I’m going somewhere new, it’s with hubby in his car with the GPS (who he refers to as “Lucy”). 🙂 They do widen the world a bit!


Money Reasons September 14, 2010 at 5:28 pm

Personally, I love having a GPS system, I really rely on it, it takes part of the job of traveling away from my mind so I can listen to audio book, or listen to music (not to loudly though ;))

Yay for technology!!!


Revanche September 14, 2010 at 5:44 pm

I’m about 100 times less anxious, and less meticulous, now that I don’t have to work out my route beforehand. And, if someone proposes a route change, I don’t have a flutter of panic before agreeing because I know that my handwritten directions don’t allow for deviations.

Of course, this gets me into trouble because my car’s GPS really isn’t that good, and as my phone gets older, the mapping function is slower and connects poorly to the internet, but I hang onto my false sense of security nonetheless. 😉


Mandy June September 14, 2010 at 6:00 pm

On one hand it’s great because I can basically go anywhere as long as I have my GPS, but on the other hand it definitely makes me a little more distracted.


Sandy L September 14, 2010 at 7:03 pm

I took tons of road trips in high school and college and I had no GPS’s. I just had one of those big map books that had all 50 states listed. That’s all I used when I drove cross country as well. Oh, and I didn’t have a cell phone back then either…nor did I have them when I backpacked through Europe. You just took the train to the city center and hit the visitor center before they closed for maps. Wow..now you’re making me nostalgic.

It didn’t affect my sense of adventure, but it sure does make it easier to get places. Back in the day, when you wanted to get somewhere, you actually would call the destination and ask for directions. I’m in sales now, so I do a lot of driving and I wouldn’t be without one. In fact, my son threw my old one in the bathtub and I had to get a new one right away.


Lola September 14, 2010 at 7:46 pm

I like GPS, too. It’s certainly not foolproof, but all in all, it’s pretty amazing how GPS will eventually get you where you need to go. Our model is not as user friendly as I would like, but I’m about used to it. And if you’re driving by yourself, it’s definitely the best way to go.

One big drawback I see with GPS (and I guess that would go for cell phones technology as well) is that I think it lulls people out of sense of planning. I still like to look at a map and even get directions from someone (i.e, get some landmarks! Such as “watch for Shell station on the left and turn there” or “look for the house with the statue of a dog holding a basket and go down two houses from there). I’m really good at folding maps back to their original configuration – maybe that’s why I still have a soft spot for the big fold out AAA specials.


Squirrelers September 15, 2010 at 12:33 am

For me, it’s actually been an individualistic source of pride to try to avoid using a GPS in day-to-day driving. Maybe I fit the male sterotype of not wanting to ask for directions, even from a machine:)

That said, I should probably backtrack a bit, as I do use google maps to find specific addresses in cities that in which I don’t have detailed driving experience. For example, if I needed to drive somewhere 50 miles away, and go to someone’s home in a subdivision, I’ll use google maps.

Maybe it’s actually 1 step removed from a GPS!


Barb Friedberg September 15, 2010 at 7:39 pm

That’s an interesting question. Sometimes when I watch old westerns on TV I think about traveling by coach (not in the air) or horseback.Going one hundred miles in the 1800’s was a HUGE endeavor which took days not an hour and a half.


Kris September 15, 2010 at 10:25 pm

Barb – Isn’t that funny how our world has gotten ‘smaller’? Now with speed limits being so high, you can really get places more quicker than even when I was a kid.

A lot of my time is spent in the car. I wish I could dictate blog posts while I drove. I would be scheduled out to the year 2012 if that was possible…


youngandthrifty September 16, 2010 at 10:16 am

Funny you write this post- the other day I was circling around and around and around for 20 minutes LATE for a funeral (I know. tsk tsk) when I wish I had a GPS or an iphone (I’m in the midst of getting one but can’t find an iphone4 here).

I don’t think GPS’s make us drive more at all (unless they were bad GPS that led you to a parking lot and you had to reroute a gazillion times).


Kris September 16, 2010 at 10:25 am

Oh, I totally agree – my GPS has saved me numerous times. I was just thinking about how ‘small’ our world has become, or at least seems since we can get to wherever we want to pretty darn easily.

Sorry you were late for that funeral, and that you had a funeral to go to in the first place…

Thanks for stopping by!


The Biz of Life September 16, 2010 at 11:03 pm

Everyone knows real men don’t need directions, and certainly wouldn’t own a GPS. Where’s your sense of adventure?


Kris September 18, 2010 at 3:27 pm

Biz – I obviously forgot to read the man-rule-book because I bought the GPS for my husband. (But I steal it sometimes.)


Khaleef @ KNS Financial September 18, 2010 at 12:03 pm

I think I actually drove more without my GPS. I am the type who will get lost on purpose so I can explore a new area. I do this with my GPS as well, just by looking at the map with no specific directions – but I do miss pulling out my huge maps and going in a random direction!


Kay Lynn Akers September 18, 2010 at 9:20 pm

I think we do the same amount of driving. I drove all over Southern California 15 years ago when my son was on a traveling hockey team. We didn’t have GPS or mapquest back then!


Car Negotiation Coach September 19, 2010 at 11:52 pm

I have a huge box of old maps in my basement! While I agree they are horrible to fold up, they do retain some sentimental value….I love looking through and seeing highlighted routes and reminicsing about old cross country trips.


Kay October 2, 2010 at 6:20 pm

I agree GPS has some merit to it..

will give an example of a demerit – I remember a group of friends from UK visiting Canada for the first time. they drove from Toronto to Niagara falls with the help of GPS. It didn’t work on their way back. just didn’t work! They had no idea how to get back.. and they didn’t have a map..and the nearest gas station to buy a map was quite far (they had no idea where the nearest gas station is) … and on that fateful day, nobody stopped on the road. I guess its better to use GPS in combo with a map when you are in unknown territory.

We are still GPS less and are relying on maps and google for now.


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