The Proliferation of Personal GPS Devices and Yuppie 911

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The radical drop in prices of GPS units means that more Americans own personal GPS units.  Forrester research has found that nearly a third of all Americans use some form of personal navigation system, either an in-car navigation device, handheld GPS unit or through GPS capabilities on their mobile phones.  The drop in GPS prices also has meant that personal locator beacons that use GPS to send out coordinators have also become more affordable.  The beacons used to cost over $1,000 and weren’t available for public use until 2003.  Now beacons can be purchased for around $100.  The beacons, when activated, send out a distress signal to a private company that then passes along the information to local law enforcement and rescue agencies.  Because these beacons serve as a safety net for hikers and campers, many are taking risks that they normally would not have taken: hiking steeper trails and wandering further into unknown terrain.  The number of rescues for misguided adventurists who have activated their beacons (either purposely or by accident) has risen sharply in the past few years.  The problem is so pervasive, authorities have dubbed these situations “Yuppie 911“.   One of the most egregious instances seems to be when a group of hikers alerted their beacon three times over three days over concerns about the taste of their water supply.  (Hat tip to mrgeog)


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