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Despite the flaws, however, there’s little doubt people have grown accustomed to having digital directions to anywhere available at anytime. After all, 56 percent of American adults own smartphones, which are generally equipped with mapping and GPS apps. Ellingson primarily uses her Samsung Galaxy smartphone to get directions. But she admitted that having technology at her fingertips encourages her to rely too much on the devices.
“You don’t pay attention quite as well,” she said. “You put your common sense on the back burner because you’re relying on this tool.”
Indeed, researchers have found there’s plenty of room for human error when people use GPS devices. In a study titled “The Natural Troubles of Driving with GPS,” scholars at Stockholm University and the University of Edinburgh determined that the devices are designed for “docile drivers” who follow each electronic command without fail. But most drivers have minds of their own. They stop for snacks or can’t make a lane switch in time because of traffic. The GPS typically reroutes them to get back on track, but that doesn’t mean they’ll follow the directions.
Michelin, which publishes maps and travel guides, notes that 46 percent of Americans still keep physical maps in their cars, according to a recent survey.
The younger generation is more inclined to embrace the digital. While more than half of those over age 55 carried maps, Michelin found only 34 percent of people 18 to 24 keep maps in their cars.
Madie Ley, 17, of Elk River, for instance, doubts that many of her peers read paper maps.
“I don’t think I know anyone who doesn’t have a smartphone with GPS on it,” she said.
But that doesn’t mean they always use it to their advantage. When Ley and friends took off for prom at International Market Square in Minneapolis without first querying GPS, they ended up in Shoreview.
Katie Humphrey • 612-673-4758