Ah, America: land of the free, home of the brave, and one of the few places you can sue someone over the results of an act that might be viewed anywhere else as sheer, utter stupidity.
Take, for instance, one Lauren Rosenberg of Park City, Utah. Fortune reports that she used Google Maps on her Blackberry to get walking directions between two local neighborhoods, and followed them obediently.
So obediently, in fact, that she persevered even when the directions took her onto a state route with high-speed vehicle traffic--and no sidewalks.
Predictably, she was hit by a car. And predictably, she is now suing Google for more than $100,000, for "careless, reckless, and negligent providing of unsafe directions."
Google warns Maps users on personal computers that, "Walking directions are in beta" and advises them to "Use caution – This route may be missing sidewalks or pedestrian paths."
But Maps for the Blackberry does not include the same warning. So Rosenberg walked onto a highway. And kept walking. And got hit by a car.
That's our definition of stupidity.
GPS systems are at the heart of an increasing amount of stupidity, in fact. In New York State, they've sent truckers unfamiliar with the region onto limited-access parkways that not only ban commercial traffic, but have bridges too low for modern tractor-trailer rigs.
That might be excusable for out-of-state drivers who've never experienced parkways. Except for the "No Commercial Traffic" signs at the entrances, that is.
But stupidity is hardly limited to U.S. residents. A BMW driver followed instructions from his GPS navigation system despite the fact it took him down a narrow, rutted, precarious Yorkshire path until he hit a fence. Which kept his BMW from plummeting off a cliff.
Being somewhat more sensible, the British courts fined him a total of roughly $3,000, which included the costs of rescuing both him and his car. He also got six points on his license.