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February 23. 2013 10:16PM

GPS puts driver on snowmobile trail

EPPING - GPS units can be a great thing - until they send you in the wrong direction and you need a little help from police and a tow truck.

That was the navigational nightmare for one motorist who became lost while trying to find a house in Epping last weekend, but instead found himself on a snowmobile trail that leads to the Lamprey River.

"He was pretty close to the river and it was pretty damp, so his passenger-side tire was taking on a little bit of water," said Officer Matthew Blonigen, who responded to the late-night call for help.

The sticky situation happened about 1 a.m. on Feb. 17 when the driver, from Massachusetts, was trying to find a place several streets away but followed the GPS into Camp Hedding, an old Methodist campground with seasonal and year-round homes tucked away in the woods under towering pine trees.

Blonigen said the GPS took the driver down a road that ends and becomes a snowmobile trail. The driver thought it most likely continued, so he drove on, passing a yellow pole indicating that it was a trail.

"He apparently didn't pay attention to that," Blonigen said, "and it definitely didn't look like a road people would drive on."

The driver had no idea that he was nearing the Lamprey River until the ground became wet - and his Audi got stuck.

"He wasn't in the river by any means, but he was close," Blonigen said.

Realizing he was in trouble, the driver decided it was time to call 911. It wasn't long before police arrived and located the vehicle about 100 yards past the snowmobile trail.

A tow truck was then called.

The driver wasn't shaken by his GPS goof up, but he wasn't very happy either.

"He was kind of upset that his car was stuck," Blonigen said.

On the bright side, this driver had better luck than a man in Alaska last year who followed his GPS after driving off a ferry and took a turn down a boat launch and landed in a harbor.

A similar incident happened to a woman in Washington state in 2011 when she mistook a boat ramp for a road while using a GPS in a rental car. She ended up in water, too.

This isn't Blonigen's first call for a motorist who was counting on his small navigational device operated by satellites.

He recalled a time in recent years when a driver had failed to update his GPS maps and didn't realize that a bridge was out on North River Road. The GPS still showed a bridge, and by the time the driver realized the bridge was gone, it was too late. Blonigen said the driver went off the road.

Incidents of drivers calling police after their GPS had led them astray are rare, but they have happened, local police said.

Hampstead police Lt. John Frazier said his department has had some motorists call to "get their bearing straight" after becoming lost or confused while following their GPS, but so far no one has ended up in water.

Frazier stressed the importance of having a "working sense of direction" when using a GPS.

"Some degree of common sense does exist, but people trying to get to the Seacoast from points south should know driving west won't get you there," he said.

jschreiber@newstote.com


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