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Idaho law enforcement urges caution while using GPS after driver gets stranded

The Twin Falls County Sheriff's Office recently responded to a stranded driver who got stuck on a dirt road while following their GPS.

TWIN FALLS COUNTY, Idaho — With Idaho now in the 100 Deadliest Days - when more drivers are out traveling, law enforcement is warning of the dangers of putting too much trust in your GPS when driving in unfamiliar rural areas. 

Earlier this week, the Twin Falls County Sheriff's Office responded to a stranded driver who got stuck on a dirt road while following their GPS traveling from Las Vegas to Seattle.

While the driver was okay, the consequences of being stranded in your car can be serious.

"A lot of times we see people select maybe the fastest route, or avoid construction or some of those other things instead of stay on main roads. It'll take them off the freeway onto a side country road," Sgt. Ken Mencl of the Twin Falls County Sheriff's Office said. 

Like the case of the driver who was stranded earlier this week, who stranded a Prius near Williams Reservoir. 

"Following his GPS, as well as some other things that he had going on at the time, he ended up on a two-track dirt road with a lot of rocks and steep terrain," Mencl said. 

The Twin Falls County Sheriff's office was able to resume him. Aside from some major car damage, the man was okay. 

However, that has not been the case for other drivers stuck on backcountry roads after putting too much faith in their GPS. 

"Several years ago, there was a couple that was traveling north out of Las Vegas following their GPS and became stranded out in the snow. He left the vehicle to go try and find help, and it was several months later, if not half a year later that we found his remains," Mencl said. "His wife stayed with the vehicle and survived for a couple of months living on the food that they had, and we found her. She wasn't in great health, she was barely holding on and was airlifted to the hospital."

Stranded drivers are calls the Twin Falls County Sheriff's Office often sees, especially during the 100 Deadliest Days when more people are out traveling. 

The sheriff's office said many of these calls happen after people try to find the fastest route when getting to a new destination. 

But trying to shave minutes off your trip could lead to hours of being stranded.

"Wherever your destination leads you, if you go off asphalt, you've probably made a wrong turn," Mencl said. "When in doubt, if your GPS looks like maybe it's taking you somewhere wrong - that's what the road signs are for. Those are pretty much a surefire way to make sure you get to your right destination instead of relying on GPS."

Most GPS systems have a feature that allows you to stay on freeways and main roads, instead of just selecting the fastest route. 

Planning for your trip and being familiar with where you're going is also important. 

"When you enter that information into your GPS, you can kind of zoom out and see the route that it's taking you," Mencl said. "If you see that it's taking you off of a major state highway or an interstate and it's backtracking you through somewhere that looks unfamiliar, you might want to try and recalculate or reconfigure GPS so that it keeps you on those main roads and you'll be able to be able to arrive to your destination safely."

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