Marketplace Poll Finds Portable GPS Devices A Road Hazard

Friday, Jan. 15, at 8:30 p.m. (9 NT), on CBC-TV

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, CBC Television’s award-winning consumer investigative show MARKETPLACE 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 commissioned Research Now to conduct the first-ever poll in Canada on the use of portable GPS devices on the road, with surprising results.

The Marketplace Poll commissioned by Research Now found:

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

Investigative reporter Erica Johnson speaks with Professor Paul Green of the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute, who oversaw MARKETPLACE’s road test about the potential distractions of GPS devices. He advises that drivers should never take their eyes off the road for more than two seconds at a time. Yet in one test, a driver glanced away from the road for seven seconds to program the 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 Professor Green.

Yet despite the dangers 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.

MARKETPLACE is CBC’s award-winning consumer investigative show. Trusted by viewers across Canada, the program has been providing audiences with tough consumer reports for more than 35 years. Executive producer is Tassie Notar.

About the author