By Lauren Hansen
"The machine knows where it's going!" yells Michael Scott in an episode of The Office, before driving his car directly into a lake.
If his blind dedication to GPS rings a little too true, fear not, dear driver, you aren't alone. Next time the mechanical voice tells you to hang a right where none exists, trust your own two eyes instead of making these mistakes:
1. Turning into the park
In 2013, a driver on the Upper West Side of Manhattan was trying to make his way to New Jersey. But somewhere around 88th Street, the GPS he was following led him astray. The driver turned west, but instead of turning onto a street, his sedan headed down the first few stairs of an entrance to Riverside Park. The car — and the driver — were stuck on the stairs until a tow truck could erase the evidence of a very public wrong turn.
2. Driving into the bay
Three Japanese tourists in Australia used their GPS to plan a drive to North Stradbroke Island, just off the coast of the eastern city of Brisbane. But what the machine didn't account for was the nine miles of water dividing the island from the mainland. The road turned to gravel, then to thick mud, then to gentle laps of water against the tires. The three were forced to abandon the vehicle and return on foot. Passengers aboard a passing ferry — the recommended way to get to the island — reportedly watched the whole embarrassing event unfold. A tow truck gave the poor tourists a ride back, and the car, not being worth the repair, was sent to the dump.
3. Continuing on and on and on
All Sabine Moreau wanted to do was pick up a friend from the train station, which was north of her home in Hainault Erquelinees, Brussels. But when the GPS directions took her south instead of north, the 67-year-old woman didn't question it. She stuck by her GPS when she saw the signs for the German towns of Frankfurt, Aachen, and Cologne. And when the lengthy trip forced her to refuel twice, and pull over to catch a few hours of shut-eye — Moreau didn't question the machine even then. Only when she entered the Croatian capital of Zagreb did she finally realize something was up. Her friend at the train station and her son had also caught on, and her son called the police. When Moreau finally returned home, all she said by way of explanation was, "I admit it's a little weird, but I was distracted."
4. Riding up to a cliff's edge
In 2009, Robert Jones' reliance on his satellite navigation system nearly got the best of him when he was driving in West Yorkshire, England. The "road" began to steepen and narrow, but still he plugged on. "It kept insisting the path was a road," he later explained, "so I just trusted it." Jones only realized how wrong he was when his car bumped up against a thin wire fence just inches from a 100-foot drop. He managed to get out safely, but the car remained balanced on the edge. It took a recovery team nine hours to haul the car away, and Jones was given a court citation for driving without care and attention.
5. Making a U-turn into a lake
In 2011, three women visiting Bellevue, Wash., were out after midnight, unable to find their way back to their hotel. After asking the GPS to re-route, they took what they thought was a road that would lead them to the highway. Instead, their SUV ended up sinking into deep water. The "road" turned out to be a boat launch, and the water a lake. All three managed to get out safely, but by the time the tow truck arrived, the SUV was completely submerged. "We've seen sitcom parodies of something like this and to actually see it is surprising," said a local fireman.
6. Running straight into a house
Early one foggy Saturday morning in 2011, a father was driving his wife and two kids through South Brunswick, N.J. At a T intersection, where the only options were left and right, this driver opted instead to follow his GPS guidance and go straight. He missed the initial stop sign, ran over the lip of the curb, and continued for another 100 feet before hitting a house. Unfortunately, two passengers who were not wearing seat belts were hurt and taken to the hospital. "This stuff really happens," a police spokesman remarked.
7. Getting stuck in a cherry tree
In 2007, a 37-year-old German truck driver had his GPS guide him to a Swiss factory where he was to deliver his cargo. But instead of heeding the "no-entry" warning signs that should have deterred him, the driver followed the sound of the female voice until the truck ended up wedged in the cradle of a cherry tree. The truck was stuck fast, and the driver couldn't reverse. Local officials eventually had to chop down branches of the tree to get the truck out.
8. Veering into a sand pit
GPS often can't account for changes, like construction. But that's why drivers have eyes and, ideally, wits. Unfortunately, one or the other was missing from a German couple driving around Hamburg one night in 2006. The 80-year-old driver was so dedicated to his navigation's know-how that he ignored a highway's initial "closed for construction" sign, as well as several successive barricades, until he plowed right into a sand pit. Luckily, the motorists escaped uninjured, though their egos were likely bruised.