DRIVERS using electronic maps have caused near misses and a possible fatality on Colac district roads, with police fearing more deaths are just around the corner.
Sergeant Nick Buenen of Colac police said global positioning systems were putting lives at risk by directing motorists to take dangerous routes to Otways and Great Ocean Road destinations.
Police believe inaccurate maps could have caused a Great Ocean Road death, and almost sent a truck off a cliff in recent years.
Sgt Buenen said his greatest concern was the increasing number of tourist buses and delivery trucks using Wild Dog Creek Road, where he lives, en route to Apollo Bay, rather than using the sealed Skenes Creek road.
He said GPS systems were directing motorists along the winding, unpaved, one-lane road which had a 200-metre drop on one side.
“It’s a debacle and certainly it’s a very significant road trauma issue waiting to happen,” Sgt Buenen said.
“The tourists are coming down on a daily basis putting themselves and local motorists in peril,” he said.
“If 22 people go off the side and die my bosses are going to be extremely unhappy with the road toll, and they are already unhappy – it’s only a matter of time.”
Sgt Buenen said similar issues were happening across the southern Otways at Mount Sabine, Benwerrin, and he said GPS directions could have contributed to a death at Moonlight Head.
“Anecdotal evidence came out of a fatality at Moonlight Head that a woman had taken a GPS instruction to turn left and she did, at speed, at the last minute and went off into a tree when she could have just followed the Great Ocean Road.”
Sgt Buenen said a truck carrying building material to Apollo Bay became stuck on Wild Dog Creek Road last year and almost went down a 200-metre embankment.
He said authorities closed the road for “a couple of days” to retrieve the vehicle, which workers had to secure with cables to ensure it stayed on the road.
Sgt Buenen said people getting lost due to inaccurate new smart phone map software, as reported in north-western Victoria this week, was less concerning than dangerous directions for motorists in the Otways.
“International tourists and people from Melbourne and Geelong, they don’t understand that their GPS may give them dodgy information,” Sgt Buenen said.
“Petrol tankers, semi-trailers and buses coming down a one-lane road with a 200-metre drop on one side – it’s not going to end well.
“The satellite navigation systems are creating a safety nightmare – it’s a real shift in mindset for people to acknowledge that their GPS isn’t infallible.
“Hire companies and Google Maps need to take some responsibility, the shire, VicRoads, Victoria Police, we all need to take some ownership before there’s some significant road trauma or death.”