back to article Satnav blunder sends Belgian granny 1,450km to Croatia

A Belgian granny who planned an 80km car trip to Brussels ended up in Croatia, after ill-advisedly obeying her satnav's orders to traverse Europe. Sabine Moreau, 67, intended to drive from her home in Solre-sur-Sambre to pick up a chum from the Belgian capital's Brussel-Noord station, but was instead directed eastwards on a …

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  1. LarsG
    Meh

    There are many stupid people in the world.

    1. Captain TickTock
      Joke

      Re: There are many stupid people in the world.

      The distribution is not always even ;-)

      1. Captain TickTock

        Re: There are many stupid people in the world.

        This is a Satnav feature to spread them out a bit...

        1. Noons

          Re: There are many stupid people in the world.

          I hope the satnav manufacturer isn't calling this a standard deviation...

      2. Bitbeisser
        Facepalm

        Re: There are many stupid people in the world.

        And I thought all those kind of drivers gather here in Los Angeles...

    2. Andrew Moore Silver badge
      Coat

      I've always said that we could have a mass cull of the stupid just by setting up SatNavs to detect when they are driving eastwards on Beachy Head and then announce "Turn right now"

      (Westwards and "Turn left now" would also work)

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      off to the old peoples home

      You demented old hag

  2. toadwarrior
    Meh

    If you're too stupid to tell you're being lead the wrong way then they should take your licence away.

    1. Chris Miller
      Headmaster

      And if you don't know that the participle of 'to lead' is 'led' your posting rights should be removed.

      [Sorry, toadwarrior, it's a common error that annoys me.]

      1. Ted Treen

        Don't be too hard on the lad - at least he knows the difference between 'licence' (noun) and "license" (verb) which is a common error that drives me potty...

        1. Colin Miller

          Only license is used if you are a 'Merkan.

        2. glen waverley
          Headmaster

          license

          Or, back in the 1980's , the noun was spelt that way in New South Wales. Took me by surprise when I saw it spelt with an s on a very official looking poster in a post office in Woden ACT *. Something like "license photographs taken here" . So I did a bit of checking, and damn me if that's not how they spelt the noun in NSW.

          Strange that a country that (allegedly) doesn't have regional accents, does have regional spellings.

          * which in a way is in NSW, but also isn't **

          ** ACT being competely surounded by NSW

          1. amanfromearth
            Headmaster

            Re: license

            You missed a letter in surrounded.

      2. MrXavia
        Holmes

        dont be too hard on him, point out the error and then he'll learn....

        It's just a typo or possibly if he used a mobile device, an auto correct error....

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > If you're too stupid to tell you're being lead the wrong way then they should take your licence away.

      And if you're reading this on Windows Phone...

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That will be me

    Only seven years to go. I'm noticing the first signs of absent mindedness already.

  4. John P
    FAIL

    If you're too distracted to notice that you have gone through several more countries than expected, then may I suggest you shouldn't be driving...

    1. RAMChYLD
      Boffin

      Question:

      How did she manage to get through so many countries without being asked to present her passport? Surely she'd have been stopped at the border checkpoint?

      Don't get me wrong, I believe it can happen since I was told that one of my grandpa's friends recently ended up in a village some 200 kilometers from home because his degrading mental health and craving for food at 3 in the morning got him there when all he intended to do was drive a few blocks away to a 24-hour food court, but surely the lady would've gotten in trouble for crossing the checkpoint without a passport?

      1. Edwin

        Re: Question:

        Not sure about the Croatian border, but within Schengen you can go anywhere without being stopped. Even so, a border stop at the Croatian border is likely to be a quick glance at an ID card (passport not necessary) and being waved through.

        IMHO, if you're 'distracted' enough to drive 1500km and not notice, hints like a border crossing are not going to be substantial enough.

      2. Lee Dowling Silver badge

        Re: Question:

        Never driven through Europe?

        Usually the first you know about crossing a border is when your phone connects to a new network and sends you a text saying "Welcome to Germany". You literally just cross a sign at 70mph a few seconds later (like "Welcome to Middlesex" - style) without stopping and you're in another country. Not even a line, or a person, or a checkpoint, or a different tarmac on the road or anything. And there are sometimes even houses and streets that straddle the border.

        I did a 2500 mile round trip around Europe and wasn't hindered once (France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, and then looping back to the UK through France and Germany again - the only reason I didn't get further is that my companions had to fly back to Australia and we lingered too long in Germany, but we were planning Italy, Poland, Spain, etc.).

        Some countries do have physical borders that they don't even enforce (e.g. France or Switzerland -> Italy means going through tunnels or over mountains, and they stop you and charge you money for a badge that allows motorway usage, but don't actually check your details at all).

        Europe is pretty open. It's incredibly easy to not even know what country you are in if you're not on the main motorways. And it's so easy to cross countries that you can literally do it accidentally, and with nobody knowing. Which can be a bit of pain when UK customs stop you on the ferry back and ask you to prove where you've been and start searching the car thinking that a lone male on a "road trip" to Europe with friends that can't be contacted is probably not being honest. Hell, I didn't even have a receipt for any of the hostels we stayed in because I was doing the driving and petrol because I had the car and a UK credit card, and the others paid for the accommodation because they had cash in Euros. I swear that the 5 customs officers who took an hour to search my car at 3am in the freezing cold were certain I had something even after they removed all my door panels and took my boot apart. But through Europe? Nothing until you hit Calais or the former Russian states, basically.

        Europe is pretty open, until you get to the extremes.

        1. Chemist

          Re: Question:

          "Europe is pretty open, until you get to the extremes."

          Agree entirely, go to the mainland a lot, 4 times driving last year. Only stops are Dover on the way out - motorhomes are a magnet for security checks, Swiss border but usually only to buy a motorway pass, and British entry check at Calais.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Question: @Lee Dowling

          Damn, if they did that to my car I'd be going mad! removing door panels... are they qualified? will they put it all back correctly? I doubt it...

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Question:

          Driving to Luxembourg in 1980 there was an urban road in Belgium (Bastogne?) with houses on the right and lots of petrol stations on the left. Apparently the left side was in Luxembourg where petrol was cheaper.

          1. Alexandicity
            Thumb Up

            Re: Question:

            Very much still the case. In fact, the most reliabile indicator that you're crossing the German border into Luxembourg is that there are a cluster of a half dozen fuel stations within a 50m stretch of road.

          2. Matt 21

            Re: Question: @Network67

            I think you mean Martelange on the N4.

        4. James Micallef Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Question:

          "It's incredibly easy to not even know what country you are in if you're not on the main motorways"

          True, but this wasn't simply straying over the border... she must have crossed all the width of Germany, and the breadth of Austria, and surely she must have stopped for petrol at least once.

        5. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Question:

          > Which can be a bit of pain when UK customs stop you

          Whenever I go abroad customs control on the other end is always efficiently staffed with smiling professionals who seem to genuinely welcome you to their country.

          When I get back home again it's a thirty minute queue in front of two grotty booths containing guys with faces like smacked arses. "Welcome to England," they seem to be saying, "keep off the fucking grass."

        6. Christian Berger Silver badge

          Re: Question:

          Actually, the swiss army once invaded Liechtenstein on accident.

          http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/mar/02/markoliver

        7. John R. Macdonald
          Happy

          Re: Question:

          During the Cold War a former Belgian colleague managed to drive unintentionally, on back roads, from Italy into Albania. Fortunately for him, an Albanian French language teacher spotted the Belgian plates on his 2CV before the local plod and guided him back to Italy.

          1. Bitbeisser
            FAIL

            Re: Question:

            What car was he driving, James Bond's Lotus?

            Italy and Albania don't have a common land border and on land, "during the Cold War", you would have had to cross a few hundred km along the coast of Yugoslavia (Croatia/Montenegro these days) to get to Albania...

            Try again...

      3. Psyx
        Stop

        Re: Question:

        "How did she manage to get through so many countries without being asked to present her passport? Surely she'd have been stopped at the border checkpoint?"

        Because it's Europe?

        1. John R. Macdonald
          Thumb Up

          Re: Question:

          The European Union,through the Schengen Agreement and the Schengen Convention, did away with internal border controls between participating countries and even some non-EU countries.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Facepalm

        Re: Question:

        Don't know about you, but in the European Union we don't have those things called Border Posts anymore...

        :-)

        1. Balci

          Re: Question:

          Shame. Nige'll sort it out though!

    2. Steve Todd

      What I'd like to know

      Is how she got that far without stopping for fuel at least once. There are very few Diesel powered cars that can hit that range on a single tank (and mostly then only if you're very careful and keep your speed down to 50-60MPH)

      1. Richard 120
        Happy

        Re: What I'd like to know

        I think she actually stopped for fuel twice and was driving for 2 days, this made me laugh so much, her intended journey was 38 miles, surely after about an hour (more likely earlier) you'd be wondering why you haven't reached your destination, let alone the language changes, sleeping through the night, filling up with petrol, she didn't even think she wasn't in Belgium until she got to Croatia,

        Asolutely hilarious story.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: What I'd like to know

          There are three official languages in Belgium - Dutch,French and German. They tend to put up roadsigns, and talk, in only the language of each particular region. Seeing roadsigns changing from French to German wouldn't be unusual in itself and a bit of Slovak and Croatian is no more strange to a French speaker than Dutch.

          However, the Belgians are the butt of numerous jokes in France along the lines of Irish jokes in England. I suspect a slow news night in the AFP offices.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Facepalm

    You are having a bubble bath..

    "I was distracted, so just kept on driving"

    Dear Darwin, for your consideration, before she wipes out some innocent person whilst being "distracted" in control of a 1 ton machine....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: You are having a bubble bath..

      "Dear Darwin, for your consideration"

      It's too late -- she has a son, and is too old to make more anyways.

    2. Christian Berger Silver badge

      Well what she did was still quite harmless

      In my home town, Cham, an octogenerian killed a pedestrian while starting a car.

      http://www.oberpfalznetz.de/zeitung/1783097-100-ex_staatssekretaer_steuert_unfallwagen,1,0.html

      Of course that man also was a politician. :)

  6. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Trollface

    When will it end?

    iOS 6 Maps claims yet another victim.

    1. wowfood
      Pint

      Re: When will it end?

      damn beat me to it.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: When will it end?

      That would be why she was distracted then. It really is a very nice looking satnav interface on iOS 6.

  7. 123465789
    WTF?

    satnav blunder? Really?

    Not sure what I have to believe here. If you start in Brussels on the E40 and just never change lanes and keep on driving, you end up in Zagreb. But a satnav system directing you there? Then what destination did she enter? BTW, can anyone explain how you can traverse the Alps, without noticing that is not your typical Belgian landscape?

    1. My Alter Ego
      Coat

      Re: Alps

      I think you're making a mountain out of a molehill.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: satnav blunder? Really?

      "can anyone explain how you can traverse the Alps, without noticing that is not your typical Belgian landscape?"

      Well, if you're distracted...

    3. Gordo Rex

      Re: satnav blunder? Really?

      Well, she did notice that the signs changed from French to German to Croatian, and if that didn't deter her, why should a little thing like the Alps cause her to rethink her strategy?

      1. Lars Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: satnav blunder? Really?

        Perhaps she thought it was a shortcut.

    4. Evil Auditor Silver badge

      Re: satnav blunder? Really?

      @123465789

      Good for her she ended up in Zagreb. Imagine if she was British and wanted to pick up someone in London she would have died spinning around the M25. Or fallen off a cliff.

    5. streaky Silver badge
      Alien

      Re: satnav blunder? Really?

      "BTW, can anyone explain how you can traverse the Alps, without noticing that is not your typical Belgian landscape?"

      Think she was distracted ;) Note she hasn't actually said what she was distracted by, maybe it was the GPS asking her where the hell she was going.

    6. Uffish

      Re: satnav blunder? Really?

      It's motorway all the way - at night you wouldn't see any difference.

  8. Justin 9
    FAIL

    What about her Passport

    I can understand traveling between Belgium, Germany and Austria. But Croatia is a non-Schengen state. She would have needed a passport to pass through to Zagreb

    1. S4qFBxkFFg

      Re: What about her Passport

      This might be out-of-date, but from people who've been there, I heard the Croatian border guards don't make any sort of a fuss unless (they think) there's something obviously dodgy.

      An old lady in a Belgian car probably just gets waved through.

    2. Andraž 'ruskie' Levstik

      Re: What about her Passport

      You only need a valid ID document. A passport is not required.

      1. Marvin the Martian

        Re: What about her Passport

        ... and in belgium it's obligatory to carry your ID card on you. So that solves the border problem.

  9. Schultz
    Go

    Scenic route

    That's what happens when you click on that button: 'Extended Scenic Route". It's a feature.

  10. Piro

    I don't see how that's possible

    If you're that "distracted" you shouldn't be anywhere near a steering wheel.

    Over that distance, she would have had to fill up her car with more fuel once at the very least.

    It's beyond the realm of what I consider to be plain "stupid" to leave the house for a quick drive to the nearest station, then drive an incredibly long way, have to fill up, keep going, and somehow "not notice".

    I would take the licence away immediately.

  11. MrXavia
    Facepalm

    Licence revoked i hope? anyone who can't see their sat nav has a drive time in days rather than a couple of hours, shouldn't be driving...

    How distracted must she have been? Dangerous lady...

  12. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
    Coffee/keyboard

    And people wonder why the Dutch make jokes about Belgians

    Quite besides being distracted, having to refuel a few times on an 80km trip should be a give-away that something is rotten in the state of Belgium.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And people wonder why the Dutch make jokes about Belgians

      Well, once if she was driving a car with a reasonable sized fuel tank... I can do around 560miles between refuels... (on paper the car can do around 800)

      1. John Sturdy
        Happy

        Re: And people wonder why the Dutch make jokes about Belgians

        If cars can do that much further on paper, shouldn't all our roads be surfaced with paper, for economy? Oh no, the government would miss out of fuel duty, that must be why they're still using tarmac.

    2. Jean-Paul

      Re: And people wonder why the Dutch make jokes about Belgians

      Indeed :) and all of them are the "stupid Belgians" variety, nicely justified once again by this story.

    3. Captain TickTock
      Coffee/keyboard

      Re: And people wonder why the Dutch make jokes about Belgians

      The French do, too.

      Ask a French person why Belgian cars have windscreen wipers on the inside...

  13. David Pollard
    Joke

    Where can I get one?

    Quite a few people may be interested in getting one of these as a present for their mother-in-law.

  14. spiny norman
    Happy

    Invasion

    For some strange reason I read the title as "Satnav blunder sends Belgian ARMY 1450KM into Croatia". Now that would be news.

  15. R.

    Non-information

    This women seems to have some trouble (alzeimer?). Did she really type in the good destination or did she make a mistake? The problem seems in 90% not in satnav navigation... Maybe with the selection of destinations..

    R.

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

      Re: Non-information

      Simply typing in the wrong name of the city will not cause this in general. On all satnavs I have used (Garmin and (long ago) ViaMichelin) you must first actively select another country. Otherwise Frenchmen would be sent to Paris, Texas by accident. ;-)

      Remaining question: Is there a Brussels, Croatia? ;-)

      1. Marvin the Martian

        Re: Non-information

        Hm... "Lille" may either give a coastal city in France, or a small village in the north of Belgium. Not always that obvious you must select country.

        1. Chemist

          Re: Non-information

          ""Hm... "Lille" may either give a coastal city in France, or a small village in the north of Belgium. Not always that obvious you must select country.""

          What about the major French city of Lille that is neither of those ?

  16. MikeyD85

    Driving Without

    Due care and attention much?

  17. Keep Refrigerated
    Unhappy

    Easily done...

    OK, ok, I'm going to admit that on one such 12-hour trip I took to Zurich, at Strasbourg I used to hop across to the German side of the border and cruise the E35 all the way down. One time it was extremely late and dark and I took the North exit, got to Mannheim before I realised I was headed in the wrong direction.

    Not quite a 2 day excursion, more like an extra 4 hours but still... now go ahead and laugh/downvote!

    1. Keep Refrigerated
      Facepalm

      Re: Easily done...

      Maybe I should also mention, this was before I owned a satnav - I was using a mapbook and following signs.

    2. Lars Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Easily done...

      I have done the same error twice driving in Europa before there where satnavs. Both driving at night. A fairly easy error to do. I then bought a compass for the dash board to warn me. Never needed that of course.

    3. Fr. Ted Crilly
      Coat

      Re: Easily done...

      Ah yes. My first cross Europe drive to Wilhelmshaven , via Fance, Belgium, Nederlands, Germany etc also included an unexpected diversion, we managed to get passed Namur before the penny (dutch Guilders then) dropped, in my defence 1/ wife was map reading [dang thats an oxymoron] 2/ was pre sat nav days.

      coat cos that's mine with the Tommy Testicle in.

  18. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Obligatory slight of Belgium

    Driving tests weren't made compulsory until some point in the 1970s so it's quite likely the driver never had to take one to get her licence.

    Also, having been to Brussel Noord I can understand her desire to avoid it. Not at bad as Brussel Zuid but certainly up there on the list of "100 Train Stations You Don't Want to Visit"!

    1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

      Re: Obligatory slight of Belgium

      You think Brussel Zuid is bad - have you ever been to Brussel Centraal?!

  19. Otto von Humpenstumpf
    WTF?

    If she couldn't figure out...

    ...that on your average 80km road trip the road signs usually do NOT magically change languages, and it also does not require you to have "a few naps in the car", she should be put to sleep for good, for fear of managing to get behind the wheel of a car again in the future and doing some damage to an innocent bystander.

    1. JohnG Silver badge

      Re: If she couldn't figure out...

      "...that on your average 80km road trip the road signs usually do NOT magically change languages, "

      Although, in Belgium, signs do switch between three languages and is damned confusing if you are not used to it. Having said that, German is not a language used on Belgium road signs and she might have realised something was amiss when cars started whizzing past her at speeds well above 200KmH. Then there's the snow - one might have thought she would have noticed that the world had turned white when approaching the Alps.

  20. Reality Dysfunction
    Facepalm

    not just the old..

    I once went on a course just outside London, 2 young women (early 20's) who had driven down together from Liverpool didnt arrive until the next morning. When we asked why they admitted they had got to the M6 and turned left (North) instead of right (South)and ended up in scotland before they realised, they then had to retrace and get to the course adding an extra 300 miles to their journey.

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
      Coffee/keyboard

      Re: not just the old..

      I have this image of these two confused (and for some reason blond) women asking directions from a bemused Billy Connolly or Rab C. Nesbit lookalike.

      "Ach nea! Ye've come a wee bit too far north, ya stupid cows!"

      1. Reality Dysfunction

        Re: not just the old..

        Yes they were both blonde, how did you know?

  21. S4qFBxkFFg
    Go

    Also, to those who say she needs her licence taken away, it's entirely possible she thought the French/Dutch equivalent of "Fuck it, I'm 67 and I want to see Croatia before I'm gone: Full Speed Ahead!" and made up the satnav excuse for the benefit of the friend she failed to meet.

    I've done 100-200 mile drives (admittedly before petrol was so expensive) on nothing more than boredom and a whim, so I can understand where it would come from.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I don't believe this story

    You can be distracted, fair enough. Then, when things become out of the ordinary (give her a benefit of doubt, a few hours later) - you start paying attention, looking at the road signs, looking at the sights, paying (some) attention to them funny hills outside, perhaps a peculiar number of "foreign" registration plates overtaking, waving at you... you can't be f... distracted for two days, sorry.

    So I expect it to be another cooked up marketing story, similar to those reported at face value by the media, on a toddler who bought a bulldozer off an auction site. There were others.

    So what are they selling now? No satnav, that would be too obvious :)

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A mistake??

    Why is this woman stupid? Zagreb is a much nicer place to be than Belgium at this time of year. She doesn't sound as though she was distressed by it all.

  24. Magnus_Pym

    I call foul.

    There is obviously something else going on here. No-one can accidentally drive to a local destination and not notice being on the open road for days.

    Probably more like 'Old lady does something weird and blames sat-nav'

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Only Half a Story

    What has happened to the friend that was expecting to be picked up from the station? I would love to hear that she is still waiting there.

  26. andylondon

    Er, what about the Apple Maps?

    I thought The Register's style guide required all navigational errors to be blamed on Apple. What's going on?

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Er, what about the Apple Maps?

      Dang, you're right. Kill 'Satnav', replace with 'iPhone 5'.

      C.

  27. Michael Leuty

    Funnier in France

    This story is considered even funnier in France, where Belgians have the reputation of being (how can I put this tactfully?) a bit dim.

    (The Belgians have the same opinion of the French, so that's alright then.)

    1. Lars Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Funnier in France

      Or in any neighboring country. Jokes are always told about your neighbors and the same jokes will travel around the world, only the subject will vary. Sometimes they fall asleep to wake up again centuries later. My advice is to tell no jokes at all, and especially never abroad, unless you want to take the risk of loosing your face. This subject is awfully rewarding and very funny if you enjoy "lost faces" and have the ability laugh at your self. Oh dear have to stop here.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Alton Towers

    Apparently a friend of my father who runs a hotel in Alton, Hampshire, frequently has guests turn up, check in and then ask the way to Alton Towers (which is in Alton, near Stoke-on-Trent, a good 2-3 hour drive away).

    And this happened long before sat navs too.

  29. Mephistro Silver badge
    Boffin

    Stupid?

    Given her age and the, frankly unbelievable, size of the blunder, my guess is that she suffered a mild stroke or something similar. It's not unknown for victims of strokes to remain in a trance-like state for hours or days after the stroke. Funny/sad how our -mine included- first impulse is to label her as 'stupid'.

  30. disgruntled yank Silver badge

    couple of options

    First, this could be a warning sign of short-term memory loss. Something like this, though less drastic, happened to the father of an acquaintance. He was nearer 80 than 70, but had some decent years left in him.

    Second, there could have been a romantic getaway that she considered to be none of the son's business.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let me guess, the "blunder" wasn't actually on the satnav end...

  32. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
    Childcatcher

    She was Absent-minded

    She was edging past the figurative meaning of the term and straying into more literal territory. Or, as is often uttered in this part of the world, "Why bless her little heart!"

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    She's living in Alzheimer's World

    That's what we call that state where a dementia sufferer does or says something clearly wrong, but is completely unaware of reality. In the early stages, this doesn't happen all the time, it can be episodic, and the person can appear quite normal the rest of the time.

    I've seen my mum in a similar confused state, unaware of where she is or why she is doing something. She often denies that there is anything wrong, and had become quite adept at masking her confusion on a day to day basis, before we had her assessed to figure out what was going on (I have to say it was pretty obvious to me that she has dementia).

    I hope the lady gets a diagnosis and support for her condition, it is a terrible disease which gradually robs a person of not just their memory, but ultimately their own sense of self.

  34. Winkypop Silver badge

    Two days!

    What?

    Apart from fuel, no stops?

    No food stops?

    No hotels?

    BS

  35. GurnyGub

    Anyone consider that she'd met a Croatian guy on facebook, went for it, and then used the puzzled confused look when she was 'done'. Clever girl.

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