Road Hog

Our world is awash in technologies that in some way touch upon, or originate with, ham radio. Whether it is wireless internet, or GPS, many of our technologies owe something to ham radio. In fact, when it comes to RF devices, you would be hard pressed to find something that didn’t have its start with amateur radio. However, not all devices are alike, and people have become more dependent upon some than should be the case. GPS is one of them.

GPS is short for Global Positioning System, and has its origin in APRS, or Amateur Packet Reporting System, which borrowed from military doppler shift tracking during the era of Sputnik. Initially, it was intended as a tool to help emergency responders, and also had some use with various radio clubs for Field Day use. However, if there is a technology, it can be commercialized, and APRS was quickly commercialized into GPS, with the first handheld commercial unit being the Magellen NAV 1000.

Now, why would a blog that is, supposedly, dedicated to tube radios talk about GPS? That is a fair question, and worthy of a good answer. The honest answer is that people have become too dependent upon GPS devices, to the point in which they ignore road signs and many don’t even know how to read a proper map any more. It is sad that recent Boy Scout handbooks now address the subject of using a GPS for direction finding, and just barely mention the use of a proper map and compass. However, it gets much worse.

Along the Puyallup River, there is a bridge located at 66th Avenue. It is a small bridge with a single lane in either direction. This bridge was built in 1931, and is still in service today. However, as farm land has given way to warehouse space, there has been a very dangerous trend of truck drivers using this bridge for crossing from Levee Road on the Fife side of the Puyallup River to access River Road (Highway 167) on the Puyallup side of the river. So dangerous is this trend that Pierce County had an ordinance prohibiting any vehicle with a trailer longer than twenty eight feet on the bridge, and there are cameras on the bridge to record offenders.

However, even with signs posted warning of the ordinance, many truck drivers still take the risk of crossing this bridge. Why? Because their GPS device is telling them that the bridge is best route. I have seen, and nearly been part of, many near collision events due to truck drivers taking this bridge. I have also seen many an instance in which drivers get stuck on the bridge, all because their truck was too high, and they were following the advice of the GPS, all the while, ignoring the warning signs.

I won’t lie, I do use the built-in GPS that my Boost Mobile device comes with, but only when I am trying to get someplace that isn’t necessarily on a map, and there are no obvious road signs directing me to the place I am going. Otherwise, I still use paper maps for many places that I want to go, along with road signs. I also use Google Maps to print directions that I can follow. I don’t rely upon the GPS device, especially because you can’t always get it to recalculate your route when roads are closed or traffic is otherwise interrupted.

GPS may be helpful, but when one relies too much upon it, all it is does is become little than an electronic leash, telling you where to go. If you are a truck driver, and mindlessly following the instructions it gives you, it may well be that you are putting others at risk and have now become a Road Hog. Please disconnect from the GPS and double check the map, and read the road signs. Over dependence on GPS is a form of distracted driving, and it puts us all at risk.