The Benefits of a Telematics System in your Vehicle

If you’re anything like me, it can feel really difficult to drive anywhere that isn’t familiar. Familiar paths don’t generally require us to read signs as we often find ourselves on autopilot, arriving to our destination without having to think much about it.

Unfamiliar routes, however, can make driving a lot more difficult. This is especially true for those of us who don’t see well. For me personally, if it’s sunrise or sunset, nighttime, a poorly lit area, or if it’s storming out it’s harder for me to read signs clearly...even with my contacts in. No worries, I can see them and am safe to drive, but I have to really focus on the words to make them out. Buuuut, really, could they make street signs ANY smaller for those of us that struggle to see?

Telematics systems

A telematics system pinpoints a vehicle’s location via GPS, can give directions, and can function as a way to call in to someone for help when needed. The telematics system I use for my car is called OnStar. OnStar is GMC’s version of navigation systems and requires a yearly subscription. Other types of vehicles offer telematics systems, but they have different names. For me, this subscription is totally worth it, I use OnStar ALL THE TIME. For directions and for peace of mind.

Talking to someone

There are many brands and types of telematics and navigation systems for vehicles. It’s important to choose the one that works best for you. You can even just use navigation from your cellular device, but for me, it’s not as safe. I can’t see the maps as well and I don’t want to be on my phone while driving. Plus, one of the things I like most about OnStar is that I’m able to easily call in and talk with a human on the other line. I do this when I need to avoid construction or traffic...or if I’m just lost and feeling scared. There’s something about actually speaking to another person that makes me feel like I’m not so alone.

Emergency help

Some telematics systems can also sense if you’re in danger by analyzing driving patterns that don’t seem right, or if you’ve been in an accident. They can call you and ask if you need assistance. I've called in before for directions to the nearest hospital and was immediately asked if I needed the police called for emergency assistance. How awesome is that?! Though I have read a few controversial things about this being a possible invasion of privacy, I definitely appreciate the added safety in knowing I have help when I need it.

My latest OnStar experienceRecently, my family went to a Major League Baseball game. I was driving alone with two eleven-year-old boys in the back seat. It was late and dark when we left the ballpark and there were a lot of distractions on the streets and sidewalks. I was in a familiar-ish area, as I have been to many baseball games downtown, but not one I drive through frequently enough to not need complete focus on where I was headed. There was a ton of stop-and-go traffic, people cutting each other off in a hurry to get out of there, one-way streets, construction, impatient drivers who were in familiar territory, loud music was playing, bright lights were blinking (really great for the visually impaired, haha!), and people were walking around everywhere. To boot, the bridge that I knew how to get home on was shut down.I was feeling overwhelmed, to say the least, and I was tired. I knew I was looking for a specific street, and at one point said to my son, “What does that sign say?”Trouble seeing road signsThese stupid, broken eyes I thought.My son knows I struggle to see signs at night sometimes, so he read the sign for me quickly, but it wasn’t the name of the street I was hoping to hear. I took a deep breath, gained my composure and pressed my OnStar button.Getting directionsI felt immediate relief, but I’m sure the person on the other line felt like I had lost my mind. I quickly blurted out my problem, “I’m lost downtown, looking for this street or that street, but I kind of know where I am, and I know I need to take the bridge, but it’s closed...I think...can you please help me get home?”The OnStar representative was probably thinking OMG, this lady! But, she calmly assured me that she would help me home, avoiding the shutdown bridge. Phew! It takes a special kind of person to do that job, y’all.Maintaining independenceOnce I got off of the line, I could see the route clearly on the computer screen on my dashboard. I was able to use my turn by turn navigation to get myself home, worry-free. It was then that I thought I needed to share this experience with my friends in our amazing community who also struggle with vision. Maybe it can help you or a loved one sometimes when you’re struggling to see and are feeling lost. What a great tool to help us keep our independence and find our way.There’s always a way,Andrea Junge

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