Make no mistake about it, I am an advocate of GPS and other technology that can (I said CAN) make life easier and safer. But it is unwise to mindlessly follow a digital voice as it tells us where to go. The GPS has no idea of conditions on the ground — in this case that a huge winter storm had dropped 18 inches of snow that would block the route it was telling the couple to take.
GPS has no way of knowing if a rockslide has closed a highway, or if there is flooding, or a tornado, or a forest fire, or a chemical spill from a wrecked 18-wheeler. That little device, as awesome as it is, can only do so much. The rest is left up to us to figure out.
That's why we need to maintain (oh-oh, here they come, my favorite two words) situational awareness. That means:
- keeping our eyes and ears open to what's happening around us
- listening to weather reports
- calling ahead to get the latest info about route closures
- watching the sky
- watching for deteriorating road conditions
- and then using common sense in our decision making
During winter travel, equipment to add to the list includes a shovel, chains, a winch, and devices that can call for help (such as a personal locator beacon or SPOT Satellite Messenger).
No matter how much equipment you carry, there is no substitute for using your brain to make decisions about whether or not to proceed down a snow-covered forest road in the middle of nowhere. Don't let some digital voice coming from a little black box lead you into trouble.