Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Don't let technology make decisions for you

Deb Gruver, left, with her mother, Vera Gruver, and
husband, Joshua Wood.
By Deb Gruver
I was cruising east on K-254 from Wichita, headed to training in Augusta offered by the Kansas Division of Emergency Management.
Not terribly familiar with getting to Augusta via 254, I had plugged in the address of the events center into my car’s navigation system.
I knew I’d be turning from 254 onto Ohio Street. The voice that narrates my road trips kept barking that order at me every few miles. “In five miles, turn right on Ohio Street.”
I came up behind a semitruck that was driving considerably slower than I was. I passed it.
I did so and got back into the right lane – just as my GPS wanted me to turn on Ohio, now only a few feet ahead of me.
I knew I was too close to the semi to make a sudden turn. But my car was telling me “Turn right on Ohio! Turn right on Ohio!”
I did just that.
I did all but slam on my brakes and peel off to the right, the semi, which I had just passed, right on my bumper.
The driver honked at me.
He or she had every right to do so. I had no business taking that turn after having just gone around the truck.
But a voice in my car was telling me to turn, so I turned.
My 2017 hybrid has all the latest technology (well, in its class – I’m sure a Mercedes or Jaguar has some toys my car doesn’t have). When I go to turn right, a camera pops up to show me what’s to my side. Apple Car Play allows me to access my painstakingly-curated playlists with a quick touch of a computer screen. If I want it to, it will read my text messages aloud or play voicemails.
Most of that technology is great. I feel safer with a back-up camera, lane keep assist and the alert that sounds if I’m getting too close to a vehicle or obstacle in front of me. Brake! Brake! Brake!
But just because my car barks an order at me doesn’t mean I have to follow that order.
If the semi driver hadn’t been doing a better job on the road than I was, I have no doubt I would been added to the list of fatalities on our roadways.
I learned a scary lesson that day. I can’t let technology make decisions for me.
I need to rely on common sense when I’m behind the wheel.

Deb Gruver is the KDOT Public Affairs Manager in Hutchinson


  1. Thank you for sharing your story and the great reminder to be courteous to all drivers we share the road with!

  2. Technology is helpful for so many things, but you're right, it can't control your actions. I like my GPS, but it doesn't bother me to go the next street and hear that irritated automated voice say, "Recalculating..."

  3. You should have been on 54 instead of 254 if you were going to Augusta from Wichita.

  4. Technology is wonderful, but it can't replace human decision on everything. And, like your story illustrates, it can create a distraction causing the driver to be focused on something other than just driving. Thank goodness you are okay. I appreciate you sharing your story. I'm sure I'm guilty of doing something similar and I would imagine so are many other drivers. Good reminder!