Another day, and another person has been led into harm’s way by their GPS. The story is continuously repeating itself in the news – a person sets up a street routing GPS and follows it’s directions, even if that route is not the best idea. While map errors do occur, particularly in the more remote parts of Canada, often the GPS is doing exactly what it has been told to do.
When you ask your GPS to find a route to a destination, it does not know what the best route to take is. Typically the GPS units are set for “Fastest Route” or “Shortest Distance”. Quite literally, that is how the GPS will pick roads to get you there – all it is concerned with is the road segment length and the speed limits set on those roads. It does not know that a logging road is impassible by a two wheel drive family sedan in the middle of winter. It doesn’t know what the ferry schedules are, or that the ferry is closed until ice-out.
Now, the easy way to avoid this problem is to instruct your GPS that you’d rather it avoid certain situations. Modern GPS units have all kinds of crazy cool route avoidance features but I’m going to concentrate here on the simple route avoidances that should be in just about every GPS.
To avoid logging roads in the winter, you can disable “Unpaved Roads”. While this will remove most of the problem spots, you still need to pay attention to where you are driving. If the road is even making you slightly uncomfortable turn around and go back the way you came. If you are driving in an unfamiliar area, this is double important. Do not drive on roads that are beyond your capabilities, be that vehicle or driver.
For example, to avoid Unpaved Roads on a Nuvi 2xx series (should apply to others)
Go to settings …
Now, here’s where it’s less intuitive. Select Avoidances (even if it already says “Enabled”) and that will bring up the menu ….
Here, you can disable Unpaved Roads (Particularly useful outside major urban centres, like Northern Ontario). You can also set it to avoid toll roads like the 407. One small warning though if you’re planning a trip to the USA – the bridges along the Great Lakes in places like Niagara and Windsor are toll bridges. I’ve had my GPS try to route me from Toronto to Rochester via Kingston when I’ve had Toll Roads disabled. I almost always leave U-Turns disabled so my GPS isn’t constantly telling me to “Turn around when possible”. In Toronto, it’s usually a better idea to go around the block.
Once you’re done picking what you’d rather avoid – you need to restart any driving instructions you have already started so the avoidances will take effect.
If you have a different GPS type, the info to avoid things should be right there in the manual. The capabilities to do this vary by unit (for example, Navigon on iPhone can’t disable unpaved roads). The key is to learn what you can or cannot do, and use that.