back to article Tourists follow GPS, drive into sea

Dodgy GPS systems have claimed three more victims, after a trio of Japanese tourists tried to reach Stradbroke Island off Australia’s Gold Coast in a small car. The Bayside Bulletin and Redland Times report that the three, despite the presence of lots and lots of water between their origin and intended destination, took their …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That's what the big transparent bit at the front of the car is for. Double-checking.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      You were mean to use your eyes and brain?

  2. Doug 3


    One would think every Japanese citizen would understand what the word "Island" means. Was there a sobriety test done?

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Z80

        Re: island



    2. Colin Miller

      Re: island

      The are at least 3 "isles" in UK that are actually peninsulars, and there are several islands that are reachable at low tide by submersible causeways.

      However, I have seen google maps show what is a ferry crossing as a road.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: peninsula

        noun : peninsula

        adjective : peninsular

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: island

        @Colin Miller

        And there's the Isle of Wight, which is only reachable by car after re mortgaging your house to pay the extortionate ferry fare.

        1. NogginTheNog

          Re: IoW

          Plus 30 minutes after getting there you've seen everything and want to come back :-\

      3. James Micallef Silver badge

        Re: island

        In the days before Google maps I was stumped by a map (physical paper one) that showed a road crossing the Danube between Slovakia and Hungary. It turned out that the 'road' on the map actually referred to a ferry crossing. there was an ex-bridge (pylons mid-river without the bridge deck going over) that had been destroyed during WW2. The locals seemed quite amused when asked about the bridge!

        However I did choose to believe my eyes rather than the map

  3. ACx

    Yeah, its just a Darwin thing. Leave it be.

    1. multipharious

      no doubt

      take the warning labels off immediately.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    At least the title is right

    I have to say that I consider it refreshing to see an article which heading tells the whole story like it is. "People follow GPS, end up doing something stupid".

    How many times do you read headlines like: "GPS leads people into the sea! (omg?!)".



    We do know that GPSes in Japan are far much more well behaved than those sold elsewhere. While those sold elsewhere plots to kill their owners, the Japanese ones are like Japanese wives: loyal, unassuming and will take a bullet for their owner if their owner is in danger. Remember, the Japanese love their robots, and their robots love them back.

    Those tourists probably assumed all GPS devices are the same, a very deadly assumption.

    Terminator, because this is a ROTM article after all.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Japanese wives

      >>Japanese ones are like Japanese wives: loyal, unassuming and will take a bullet for their owner if their owner is in danger

      Er, it seems you know nothing about Japanese wives!

      An iron fist in a velvet glove is how they're often described. It's no surprise that Japanese companies traditionally pay a husband's salary directly into the bank account of his wife.

      1. AdamWill

        Re: Japanese wives

        Also why Japanese household saving is so high, internationally compared.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Well,

      Odd from what I gather from my wife (who lived in japan) most (bored) wives spend their time cheating on their husbands and spending their money.

      1. Matt_payne666
        Thumb Up

        Re: Well,

        looks like im off to japan!

  6. jake Silver badge

    I've said it before, and I'll say it again ...

    When behind the wheel, turn off all your toys.

    You are driving, so fucking DRIVE! It's kind of important.

    1. Charles 9

      Re: I've said it before, and I'll say it again ...

      A) The GPS wasn't just a toy. It was their equivalent of a map, and in this case even a map could've made a mistake and put a road where there shouldn't be.

      B) These people were tourists, unfamiliar with the area, and it's not unheard of to get from a mainland to a nearby island by way of a bridge or causeway.

      1. jake Silver badge

        @Charles 9 (was: Re: I've said it before, and I'll say it again ... )

        The map is not the territory.

        Shame common sense is neither ...

      2. petur

        Re: I've said it before, and I'll say it again ...

        Indeed, I know of several roads to 'islands' where you can actually drive when there is low tide. There's always a sign consisting of a load of text, which foreigners may have a hard time to read/understand.

        1. Graham Bartlett

          Re: I've said it before, and I'll say it again ...

          However, the significant word here is "road". Even Johnny Foreigner should be able to figure out that when he starts driving across a mudflat towards the sea, he's probably not going the right way.

        2. Roger Varley

          Nothing changes

          Lindisfarne was near my childhood home. The causeway came complete with "The Refuge" (think large garden shed on very long stilts) for those who could neither tell the time or recognize the difference between an incoming or receding tide..

      3. NoizeBoy

        Re: I've said it before, and I'll say it again ...

        Sorry Charles, living as I do overlooking the bay and staring at the island whilst sat at my computer, I reckon that the 10 bloody miles of water between the mainland and the island (even at low tide) should give anyone with half a brain pause for thought. It never looks remotely possible, even at the lowest of low tides...

        1. Charles 9

          Now I'LL reiterate.

          You may be familiar with the area. They *weren't*. And like I said, causeways are possible, as are low-tide roads as others have noted (another thing: they may not be familiar with local tidal patterns which differ from place to place). They didn't know the condition of the roads there, probably figured the path to be a low-tide road, miscalculated, and got stuck. Crap happens.

          1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

            Re: Now I'LL reiterate. (@Charles)

            Your generosity of spirit has no place on this site. We're geeks. We're perfect. We never fucking type 'rm -Rf *' while in the root. Now get back to slagging people off.

          2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

            Re: Now I'LL reiterate.

            Familiar with the area?! If my map said "turn here", and "here" appeared to be 15km of water, I would want to see a damn great sign saying "causeway" and giving tide times before I just drove into the sea.

            Most Australian hire-car documents are very clear that the car is not insured when taken off metalled roads. Maybe when these people get the bill they'll reflect on engaging their brains next time they're behind the wheel.

            > Crap happens.

            Note once you're past about 2 years old it doesn't, it generally requires some effort to produce.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Now I'LL reiterate.

              Great fun watching the causeway to Lindisfarne (Holy Island) in Northumbria as the tide comes in and the last drivers try to get back to the mainland before being stuck for a few hours. There are even refugees on rather tall frames. It is a lot further than you think and the tide moves much faster than one would think possible.

          3. ItsNotMe

            Re: Now I'LL reiterate.

            Ah...Charles my dear boy...let me refer you to the FIRST comment above by @moiety...OK.

            'nuf said?

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I've said it before, and I'll say it again ...

        C) These people were idiots and unfamiliar with the sea.

    2. Mike 102

      Re: I've said it before, and I'll say it again ...

      too true, turn of your toys... that includes speedometers, fuel guages, indicators (god help us you might get distracted by your indicators and pull out without looking), brakes, windscreen wipers, lights... oh and whilst you are at it the ignition.

      numpty. it's not a toy it's a tool and, as any oter tool, if used inappropriately will not give the desited result.

      1. Elmer Phud

        Re: I've said it before, and I'll say it again ...

        Clarkson syndrome --

        'I'm a great driver, fantastic, in fact. Yet when I'm asked to drive at no more than 50 mph on a motorway I bleat about having to watch the speedo all the time and I then claim it's dangerous.'

        Odd how 'cruise control' never gets a mention.

        Looking at a tiny screen is no substitute for looking out of a big screen now and then just to check you're still on the road'

        TwatNav will be with us forever.

      2. jake Silver badge

        @Mike 102 (was: Re: I've said it before, and I'll say it again ...)

        Does it make you feel warm and comfy when people are using these things while behind the wheel even though they can't use a keybr0ad properly whilst sitting at their desk?

        Just askin' ...

    3. Wize

      Re: I've said it before, and I'll say it again ...

      Sat navs, when used properly, are very helpful.

      Saved me quite a bit of time in Milton Keynes (and visitors to their fare non-city will probably agree) that its difficult to navigate, even after checking maps in advance and street-viewing my route, as everything looks the same.

      It can also be safer. Work dumped me in the Netherlands with a motorway trip in a hire car. First time driving on the opposite side of the road, with the body of the car at the opposite side (extra concentration to line yourself up with the lane) and speeds in KPH instead of MPH to fight with, without having to deal with locations in a language you are not familiar with and trying to spot them in overhead gantries.

      Using the sat nav helped free up concentrating on my location so I could use it to watch the road.

      Note, that I said I was watching the road. If it did point me at a cliff edge, I would stop.

      1. Alan Edwards
        Thumb Up

        Re: I've said it before, and I'll say it again ...

        Completely agree. Recently had the same experience, except I was in Boston in the US.

        First time on the wrong side of the road in a left-hand drive car was the 20 mile drive to the hotel. I would not want to do that without a GPS, i did not know that motorway junctions there sometimes have two exits depending which way you want to go on the road you're joining.

        I've had a few WTFs from the GPS too though. TomTom tried to take me down a farm track going from Leatherhead to a hotel on Epsom Downs once. I just ignored it, and it recalculated - I think some people forget the GPS will recalculate the route if you go wrong, and think they will get lost if they don't obey every instruction.

        1. Tom 13

          @Alan Edwards: First time on the wrong side of the road in Boston?!?!?

          You sir are either a very brave, or very stupid man and certainly a very lucky man. Even those of us accustomed to driving on the wrong side of the road avoid Boston if we can.

          Have virtual pint on me for surviving the trip.

    4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: I've said it before, and I'll say it again ...

      A SatNav is a tool, not a toy. A very useful too at that. Only a poor workman blames his tools.

      Or are you one of those people who have the radio turned off, passengers ordered to be silent and are a Zen Master who can actually devote 100% attention onto the single task of driving for multiple hours at a time?

      A properly positioned SatNav is no more distracting than checking your speedo. Or don't you do that either?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm sure this kind of thing happened before GPS as well...

  8. lotus49


    I stopped reading after the second incorrect use of "it's".

    1. It wasnt me
      Thumb Up

      Re: Punctuation

      Well, fair enough. But you did get through most of the article before skipping to the comments, which is kind of unusual around here.

    2. bigphil9009

      Re: Punctuation

      It's best to use the "submit corrections" link to point this sort if thing out.

      1. SYNTAX__ERROR

        Re: Punctuation

        No, because use of such will simply be ignored.

  9. Aitor 1

    They were right.

    And I guess they had that "Dunwich look", after all, they should have taken a ferry to dunwich.. and hey, maybe they were hybrids!!

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Re: They were right.

      It was the "Innsmouth look". I'm not sure what the "Dunwich look" would be - invisible and oversized, perhaps?

  10. Jeremy 2

    They got it out?

    According to the source article, the tow truck driver took a look at it and said no way and the insurance company is now involved...

  11. Ian Michael Gumby

    Which GPS and Map provider?

    TomTom? NAVTEQ, Google, or some third party provider?

    GPS isnt the issue, it's the underlying map quality that is a problem.

    Of course it could be the software that misinterprets Ferry Links or water features incorrectly.

  12. spiny norman

    One day, coming home, I left the satnav on long after I knew where I was going. It confidently told me to turn right down a lane I know leads to a ford that is only suitable for horses. I ignored it, obviously, but I'm surprised the river isn't full of Japanese tourists.

    GO, because, well, the satnav INSISTED.

    1. Grease Monkey Silver badge

      Are you sure it's only suitable for horses. There's a lane not far from us with a ford which a lot of people are scared of, but I've driven it many a time. I would avoid it if the stream was in flood, but a satnav couldn't know about that could it? An old feller who lives nearby assures me that back in the fifties everybody used to use that road, but fewer and fewer people use it today because, as he put it, "everybody's nesh these days".

      I was talking to one of my neighbours a few weeks ago and he told me how useless satnavs were, because a visiting friend's satnav had tried to direct him up a lane nearby which was he said "completely impassible by motor vehicles". I was about to argue with him when an Asda delivery van emerged from the lane. Yes it's narrow, badly surfaced and at one point very steep, but it is still technically a public road and can be driven. I did it in a Nissan Micra of all things. It's not a sensible route and for preference I would go the long way round, but there's nothing actually wrong with the route. I've noticed that satnav tends to suggest this route when people select shortest or most economical. By default I think satnav should be set to simplest.

  13. Leona A
    Paris Hilton

    what is it....

    with people and GPS, they seem to think its a substitute for their brain!

    People driving into the sea, lorries getting stuck between buildings, I mean, what is wrong with people.

    Surely if they are That Thick, what are they doing driving a car in the first place!

    Geez the shear stupidity of people.

    1. Tom 7

      shear stupidity?

      You just coined a new software engineering term!

  14. kain preacher

    How the hell do you not see a big freaking pile of water? Didn't you notice you were running out of road ?

    1. Anomalous Cowturd

      Pile of water?

      A neat trick!

      If I get a shovel, could you pile all the water at one end of my pond, so I can clean out the other end?



      1. kain preacher

        Re: Pile of water?

        Well the driver in this story must of thought it was like that. Hmm driving through this mud must be like driving through a pile of leaves.

      2. micheal

        Re: Pile of water?

        Perhaps they watched "moses" as the in-flight movie and assumed the sea's would part as they progressed

  15. Crisp

    It's easier to blame the GPS

    Than admit to being a bad driver.

  16. Heironymous Coward

    15 minutes

    These guys have something that most people don't have - something like 15 minutes of fame (more if it's a slow news day).

    However, I can't see driving across an unmarked causeway that I can't see on the basis that the GPS tells me it's there.

    Did insurance cover loss of the car?

  17. Pastafarian

    Croydon tramway

    I once drove down the Croydon tramway following GPS, but, in my defence, it did start as a road with embedded tram tracks. (Pissed off the tram driver when I did a U turn.)

  18. Frank Bitterlich
    Paris Hilton

    That's the one thing a SatNav does *not* do...:

    ... tell you which drive is "possible" and which is not. As in "the GPS insisted the drive was possible".

    That's what the extra warning message says that you have to confirm each and every time you start up that thing. Which was invented due to such idiots.

    As a SatNav maker I would sue them for such idiotic statements.

    1. Grease Monkey Silver badge

      Re: That's the one thing a SatNav does *not* do...:

      Indeed, but the media always repeat these claims without even bothering to check the facts. A driver near us got stuck up a public footpath and claimed the mistake was down to his satnav. The local paper ran the story under a headline something like "Satnav Directs Driver Up Footpath". Various locals tried checked their satnavs and not one could find the footpath in question on their maps. The path wasn't even a public right of way, just a cut-through between two factories.

      The point being that it has now become standard practice to blame satnavs for the sort of mistake that people have been making since way before satnav was around. And of course that it's also standard practice for people to accept this explanation without question.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bored with GPS stories now

    People do stupid things. Always have, always will. SatNav just gives them new ways.

  20. Richard 116

    I've been in a similar situation...

    Well sort of. Wasn't daft enough to drive into the water.

    However, it's the satnav settings that are important here. Usually satnavs by default say yes to motorways, toll roads and ferries. It's the last one. Never mind your choice of quickest, shortest or most economical, if you allow satnav to include ferries then it will. That's all very well but it obviously doesn't know when the ferries are. Hence the "In 500 yards turn left" and all you see is an expanse of water. If for example you choose 'quickest' and include ferry crossings the nav will make the assumption that a ferry will be waiting for you at every crossing.

    Try driving from Edinburgh to Bowmore on Islay with the satnav on default settings and you'll see exactly what I mean!

    1. Grease Monkey Silver badge

      Re: I've been in a similar situation...

      Yes satnavs use ferries, usually by default. I have, however, never used one that would direct you along the route of the ferry as if it were a road. They usually say something like "In 500 yards turn left for ferry" or "Board ferry" or some such.

  21. JaitcH

    Suds like Garmin GPS software

    I did a coach tour from SaiGon/Ho Chi Minh City to Ha Noi and used my Garmin GPS to record the journey.

    When I uploaded it to my laptop, I discovered, according to Garmin, most of the trip was done between 10 and 15 kilometres OUT TO SEA.

    Same thing on another Garmin on the way back.

  22. Grease Monkey Silver badge

    Even if you believe the tourists' story it wasn't the GPS that was a fault it was the digital maps that were wrong. GPS merely tells you your position and vector.

    Anyhow are we sure they didn't have a device that they set to marine mode?

  23. Chris Sake

    Learning from history

    I wonder if the driver in question, when a young 'un, used to sit on his grandfather's knee while being told stories about the time that the latter and his mates went on a holiday to Singapore, and how they had to cross a causeway to get there.

  24. rpjs

    Think of it

    as evolution in action.

  25. Wombling_Free

    In defence of the tourists...

    Firstly - the GPD might have been wrong ie. showing a road where there wasn't one. The fact that it plotted a course to the island suggests this may be the case. I have seen a few GPS aps in Australia that have very creative ideas about the nature of reality (roads that don't exist, guiding you onto an expressway going the wrong direction).

    Secondly - have a look at the photos and the weather. Dead calm sea, high hazy overcast, sun directly overhead, so no clear shadows - these conditions can produce a whiteout-like effect where it becomes impossible to see the horizon. The calm water reflects the hazy sky, and all you can see is hazy grey-ish white. Combine that with an inversion layer over the water or the island and you get prime conditions for mirages - which can look like roads. To someone already a bit nervous due to language, a dodgy GPS that keeps telling them to turn left in 100 metres and the guys in the back having a laugh I can see how you might make an error.

    There are roads in our glorious nation's capital that will be dual-carriage freeways, letting you tear along at 100km/h that suddenly turn into empty fields as you round a corner - no signpost, no warning, the map even shows a road... that hasn't been finished. The government will get around to it one of these decades.

    A lot of mileage has been made in the press here of 'haha stoopid toorists!' but the locals make bigger and more spectacular blunders all the time.

  26. Eddy Ito
    Thumb Up

    I see what you did there

    "... the end, when it came, was wet, sticky and embarrassing."

  27. Richard Freeman

    To be fair to the Tourists (or is that have some fun at their expense?) - a few unmentioned points:

    1) it had rained every day of their 6 day Holiday, so maybe they just thought that Roads covered in Water were normal in Australia.

    2) they thought the GPS was saying it would navigate them to a road

    - while I am guessing that the GPS was saying to return to nearest Road they probably were not listening to it in Japanese and misunderstood its instruction as a promise.

    3) they only got 500 meters but I bet if they had a longer run up and a more powerful car they might have got further, and after all there was probably only about 14,500 meters to go.

    4) the rental agreements I have seen are not clear that Cars are not amphibious and in Australia everything is upside down and back to front so maybe they just expected (I couldn't very well say that they thought, could I?)

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