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December 13, 2007

A BIG CHRISTMAS GPS sale at Amazon. Maybe I should crack and finally buy one. But I'm pretty good about finding my way around, and I'm afraid my skills will atrophy if I have a box on the dashboard telling me where to turn. Am I wrong?

UPDATE: Lots of responses, so I'm bumping this. Reader Jane Woodworth says I'm right to worry:

I recently bought a car with a GPS system, automatic headlights, a camera that shows you what you are backing into, a keyless ignition and a few other current conveniences.

I can say categorically that I am now too stupid to drive an ordinary car. As evidence I took my business partner's car recently, and not only left the lights on but left the car running until the battery died.

I am now absolutely too dumbed down to drive a lawn mower, never mind a normal car. I say fight the urge.

Matthew Cowles says not so much:

Yes, it's possible that a person's navigation skills might atrophy as a result of using a portable GPS. But I've been a flight instructor and consider my navigation skills pretty good, and I'd still say that that's a bit like being afraid that getting a typewriter will cause a person's penmanship to deteriorate.

Portable GPSes aren't useful all that often because, pretty much by definition, people mostly go to places they're familiar with. But when they are useful, they're very useful indeed.

I have a review that's about a year old (and therefore not directly useful) of the Magellan 2200T that explains my opinion.

Tom Ussery says don't worry:

Do yourself a favor and get one. I thought the same until I bought an Acura TL with the navigation system. I have never looked back, and my manliness, and internal compass-direction finding ability has just been enhanced, not hindered.

That's a relief. Reader Henry David says go for it:

I have had two Garmin Nuvi 660's ( one was stolen ) and would not drive without a GPS.

Two big deals - 1. Traffic report is great !!! I check out where the congestion is before I head off.
2. The device calculates and updates my arrival time - I don't have to guess if I'm running on time, and 3. It counts down miles to the next waypoint.

Of course I'm in LA and its very very big with lots of alternate routes if you have a heads up.

Well, that describes Knoxville, too. And Mason Kidd says I've got it backward:

Concerning your post on getting a GPS. I too thought the same thing - that with a GPS unit I would become reliant on it and lose my skills with directions. We got a new car with a navigation system in it, and I've found the opposite to be true. Having a map in front of me while driving allows me to visualize things much better, and remember the layout of those streets better in the future. The key has been to not actually use the turn-by-turn directions unless really necessary.

Good suggestion.

MORE: Reader Rick Lang emails:

I'm a retired AF F-15 Pilot and thought pretty much the same as you. My wife however is "directionally challenged", so when we bought her a new car, I went ahead and got one. I thought it was pretty cool, find the nearest McDonalds or Gas Station. Not really necessary though. But when we took her car and my dad to my son's college graduation and while we were transiting Austin, he went into hypoglycemic shock. Two clicks on the GPS and we're getting turn by turn to the nearest hospital. Long story short ALL my vehicles have one now.

Good point.

STILL MORE: Some further thoughts from Kim du Toit, whose situation seems like mine.

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