If Google told you to jump off a cliff, would you?

May 29, 2010: 5:29 PM ET

A Utah woman used Google Maps' walking directions on her Blackberry and was given directions to walk onto a highway. She got hit and is now suing Google for damages.

You know those warning labels on those chemical packets that come in new shoes  that say 'do not eat'?  Have you ever wondered why they have to print  something so stupidly obvious?

Enter Lauren Rosenberg of Park City, Utah.  She used Google Maps on her Blackberry to get walking directions from one part of town to another. Part of those directions included walking on a road without sidewalks called Deer Valley Drive, aka Utah State Route 224.

According to court documents, instead of finding a different route or walking safely away from traffic, she walked into the street and was (surprise!) struck by a car. Now she's suing Google for in excess of $100,000.

Defendant Google, through its "Google Maps" service provided Plaintiff Lauren Rosenberg with walking directions that led her out onto Deer valley Drive, a.k.a. State Route 224, a rural highway with no sidewalks, and a roadway that exhibits motor vehicles traveling at high speeds, that is not reasonably safe for pedestrians.

The Defendant Google expects uses of the walking map site to rely on the accuracy of the walking directions given….

As a direct and proximate cause of Defendant Google's careless, reckless, and negligent providing of unsafe directions, Plaintiff Laren Rosenberg was led onto a dangerous highway, and was thereby stricken by a motor vehicle…

This reminds me of something my parents used to tell me when I was younger and blamed someone else for my mistakes.  In this instance, they'd say "If Google told you to jump off a cliff, would you do it?"

Except I was a kid.  And if I was told to walk onto a highway, I would have passed.

As Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land points out, if you do a walking directions search from a desktop or laptop, you get one of those "Don't eat this packet of chemical stones" warnings:

Walking directions are in beta. Use caution – This route may be missing sidewalks or pedestrian paths.

Microsoft's Bing has a similar warning when mapping the same path:

Caution, this route may be missing sidewalks or other pedestrian paths.

The problem is that you only get 320x480 pixels on a Blackberry screen (if you are lucky) and if Google needed to put warnings on its Maps pages, there'd hardly be any room for a map.

Instead, Google has to rely on people using common sense and lessons they learned in kindergarten – at least until their maps become 'fool proof'.

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About This Author
Seth Weintraub
Seth Weintraub

Google went from searching the Web to worming its way into nearly every facet of business and government. Seth Weintraub unveils where the company is going, who it's competing with, who it's about to compete with and how market forces push the company to veer or adhere to its Don't Be Evil motto. For 15 years, Weintraub was a global IT director for a number of companies before becoming a blogger.

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