BROADCAST DATE : Jan 15, 2010

GPS Distraction

More than one million Global Positioning System (GPS) devices were sold in Canada last year, making them one of the hottest gadgets on the market. But are they a safe way for drivers to find their way?

In an exclusive interview, Erica Johnson speaks to an Ontario mother whose daughter was struck and killed by a driver distracted by his GPS.

With no statistics available regarding the use of portable navigation systems while driving, Marketplace conducted the first-ever poll in Canada on the use of portable GPS devices on the road, with surprising results:

  • More than one third of respondents (35 per cent) say their GPS actually distracted them, or that they lost concentration
  • Nearly half of respondents (47 per cent) program their devices while driving

Research professor Paul Green of the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute, who oversaw our road test about the potential distractions of GPS devices, advises that drivers should never take their eyes off the road for more than two seconds at a time. However, in one test, a driver glanced away from the road for seven seconds to program their GPS device.

“Every time you look away, that’s another time period that you’ve lost a sense of what’s happening while driving,” says Green.

Yet despite the problems of distraction, manufacturers of portable GPS devices still allow drivers the option of programming while the car is in motion, instead of completely locking them out.