MEDFORD, Ore. — Google Maps may not have your best interests at heart when it comes to driving in winter weather conditions. Officials with Jackson County Roads and the Sheriff's Office say that many travelers have been relying too heavily on their GPS devices in attempts to get around road closures during the late-November storm.
Because of the closures on I-5 on Tuesday, the agencies say that drivers diverted onto mountainous County roads in an attempt to bypass I-5 — only to get stuck and end up calling for help.
Some of those drivers were on Dead Indian Memorial Road, which the County describes as "remote, steep, narrow" and 1000 feet higher than the Siskiyou Pass. Several of those attempting the detour were semi-truck drivers, whose vehicles are prohibited on this road during winter conditions.
Many drivers tried to make the journey without using chains, resulting in them crashing or sliding off the road.
“Diverting from major highways to rural, remote county roads during a winter storm in hopes that you can make it is not a wise decision,” said John Vial, Jackson County Roads and Parks Director.
At one point, officials said, 13 drivers left I-5 onto Colestin Road, got stuck, then spent most of the night waiting for rescue. Crews didn't reach them until roughly 3 a.m. on Wednesday morning. Colestin Road is not maintained after dark during the winter time, which officials say is posted on signs.
“We are seeing an increasing trend of drivers choosing to blindly follow a GPS into areas they are not familiar with and as we have seen in other areas, this could have turned out tragic, I’m grateful this time it didn’t,” said Sergeant Shawn Richards.