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Personal Injury

The Benefits and Pitfalls of Turn by Turn Navigation

It’s easier now than ever to find your way around, but that doesn’t always mean that the roads are safer. Gone are the days of downloading map packs to your GPS unit, and the famous scene from “The Office” where Michael Scott’s driving instructions lead him veering into a lake is a quaint (if hilarious) reminder of how poor artificial intelligence (AI) once was. Today, the majority of drivers have smartphones with them at all times, and many of them use turn-by-turn navigation that plots the quickest course from A to B, all in real time.

The benefits are hard to overstate. Drivers reap all the benefits of the navigator of yore – sextant in hand, eyes scanning furiously over a map – without the cost, distractions, or mistakes. In the age of Big Data, free services like Google Maps and Waze can aggregate tens of thousands of data points to identify traffic slowdowns far beyond a driver’s eyesight and instantaneously craft a detour that will shave minutes off the daily commute. Given the toxic effect of stressors like traffic angst, these innovative services may save us years of life in addition to minutes in our days.

The Downside of Turn-By-Turn

But there is a dark side to the turn-by-turn world. The yawning monotony of the daily commute is being replaced by a dynamic form of transit where every segment of each trip is ripe for disruption. That bottleneck that always grinds your gears halfway through the commute? Your navigation system has half a dozen workarounds on frontage roads and old highways. Some yokel caused an accident in the middle of the smoothest part of the expressway? Suddenly you find yourself driving on side streets you didn’t know existed, winding through industrial parks and quasi-residential areas to end-run the slowdown. It can be exhilarating: you feel like spy or a getaway car driver, careening through back alleys in a race against time.

Suddenly, an accident: glass shatters, metal crumples, and the urgency to arrive on time is lost to the disorienting surreal of a car crash. As everything comes back into focus, you need a combination of fast and slow thinking. Fast: Am I in pain? Are my passengers (if any) hurt? Are we in immediate danger, perhaps from an explosion, a falling tree or wall, or from oncoming traffic? Do the people in the other car need help? Fortunately, these fast-thinking questions will come to most people instinctively since we are well-adapted to protecting our physical health even in scary situations.

Think Slow, Too

If the fast thinking is for your body, the slow thinking is for your wallet. Anyone injured in the accident is likely to want to be made whole again, even if they don’t say so at the time. Often, auto insurance will resolve this; if not, a personal injury lawsuit may become necessary. Slow thinking means being cautious, not dishonest. If you think you were at fault, keep that thought to yourself until you better understand the extent of the injuries. Blurting out “It was my fault!” is only going to hurt you, and upon reflection you may change your mind. If the accident occurred along your normal commute, did it also taking place during a time when you are normally driving? The more run-of-the-mill this drive was for you, the stronger your case is likely to be. If you are the turn-by-turn driver, try to recall what you were doing in the moments immediately before the crash. Were you distracted by your GPS? Or were you intently focused on driving safely in this new, unfamiliar place? Make a mental inventory of what you observed before the accident and as it was happening.

Another key piece of slow thinking is making sure you identify the other driver. If the driver who struck you was in unfamiliar territory and relying on GPS navigation, they might try to flee the scene on the theory that no one will be able to identify them. It can be especially difficult to obtain the compensation you deserve after a hit-and-run accident. Some people are so dishonest that they will act normal, accept fault, and look you in the eye as they provide false insurance and contact information. They will promise to take care of things “unofficially” and that’s the last you will hear from them. Be courteous and kind, but don’t be a rube – get the car’s VIN number (among other places, usually on a small metal card on the dashboard, visible through the windshield) and snap a picture of the person’s state-issued ID card.

In this brave new world of turn-by-turn navigation, it’s better to be safe than sorry. That goes equally for your daily commute as for the steps you take after an accident occurs.