GPS lost in distracted driving conversation


In-car navigation may get drivers to that secret ice-cream spot or backwoods campsite, but it could also set a collision course if used improperly, warns the Alberta Motor Association. In fact, AAA-funded research shows that programming an address into a Global Positioning System (GPS) takes drivers an average of 40 seconds, while “carryover” distraction can last up to 27 seconds afterward.

“The risks of GPS programming need to be part of the distracted driving conversation,” says Jeff Kasbrick, Vice-President of Government and Stakeholder Relations at AMA. “Taking your eyes off the road for even two seconds, whether it’s for a text message or using your GPS, can double the likelihood of a crash.”

On the surface, GPS might seem a mere footnote in Alberta’s distracted driving problem, with just 11 of last year’s 23,546 distracted driving convictions being categorized as GPS-related. But with many drivers now using their phones for navigation – a different subsection of the law – it’s more likely that infractions are being categorized alongside Handheld Communication offenses, which numbered a whopping 18,659 in 2018.

By programming navigation before hitting the road, drivers spare themselves not only an expensive ticket, but also a potential crash – particularly heading into the long weekend. Research in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention finds fatal collisions during the province’s holiday periods increase by an average of 18%.

“Whether it’s texting, shuffling through your latest playlist, or tinkering with your GPS, the message remains the same: anything that distracts from the task of driving puts you – and everyone else on the road – at risk,” says Kasbrick. “To arrive at your destination safely, your best bet is to program the GPS or navigation app prior to the journey, then rely on voice-guided directions while the vehicle is in motion.”

After all, that secret ice-cream spot awaits.


AMA’s top tips for preventing distracted driving:
  • Eliminate preventable distractions before getting behind the wheel
  • Set your GPS and/or review all directions prior to the journey
  • Use voice navigation to keep your eyes on the road
  • Stow and secure loose objects
  • Let all calls go to voicemail
  • Avoid grooming and eating while driving

To request an interview, contact the AMA Newsroom: ama.newsroom@ama.ab.ca or 1-888-960-6397