Google Maps and other GPS programs on smartphones help drivers navigate new destinations.

But in some cases, these programs are taking drivers off the beaten path.
For people who drive between Viroqua and La Crosse, the most common route would be to take Highway 14/61.

But if you use a service such as Google Maps, it takes you on a much different path. In some cases, the path could be dangerous

Vernon County Chief Deputy Sheriff Nathan Campbell said mapping systems are driving a lot of cars into some unusual places.

"You search Viroqua to La Crosse, or Madison to La Crosse, and the mapping services are actually taking them on some of these back roads rather than the main highways,” Campbell said.

And while that may seem to be a good thing if you're looking to shave some time off the trip, Campbell says some routes, particularly County Road B between Coon Valley and Viroqua, could potentially be dangerous.

"There was a truck accident at the intersection of County Road B and Highway 14. That individual was using a mapping service to try and get from one place to another, and basically he was taken on a back road, in this case it was a town road and then onto a county highway onto a steep hill, where he lost his braking and ended up in a crash,” Campbell said.

Experts say GPS programs use a special algorithm that updates in real-time.

"It literally just determines fastest route based on road conditions. That's including construction, traffic conditions on that road and then the speed limit of that road is, and also just shortest linear distance,” Coulee Techlink IT network administrator Justin Cavanaugh said.

But Campbell says the increased traffic on some back roads could eventually take a toll.

"We're going to have to put more money in them if we continue to direct this heavy traffic and the amount of traffic over roads that are not meant for the heavy traffic,” Campbell said.
Campbell is hoping that drivers will take the route most traveled next time.

"As far as safety goes, U.S. Highway 14 is definitely going to be a better bet,” Campbell said.

Vernon County does not know of any other routes that are affected by these mapping problems.

To correct the problem, services such as Google Maps will provide two or three additional routes for users to take.

One of them, most likely, will be a route that uses large-volume roads such as highways.