David Amsler

GPS instructions to ‘bear right’ lead to chaos on family road trip

The moral of this story? Don't trust your GPS.

Feb 29, 2020, 9:16 am*

Internet Culture


Amrita Khalid

GPS once again leads an innocent human astray. 

A small boy named Austin was on the road with his family when the car’s GPS system gave a chilling warning: Bear right. What comes next is utter chaos, as Austin realizes with horror that he is sitting on the right side of the car and thus the closest target for the hungry carnivore. 

“On our Colorado vacation in 2009, the kids misinterpreted the GPS. We were on our way to the zoo in Colorado Springs,” says the caption of the video posted by YouTube user chip golden. 

The family’s navigational system was actually instructing them to prepare for a right turn. Austin’s sister Abby is the first to notice the GPS’s signal of impending danger. She informs her brother, who immediately informs the parents that there might be a problem. The hilarious exchange that follows is a perfect example of why “bear right” needs to be struck from the GPS vocabulary forever. 

The parents try to get to the bottom of why the two children think there seems to be a bear outside of their car. “That screen said ‘Bear right!'” proclaims Abby, with the complacency of someone who isn’t about to be devoured alive. Austin immediately starts bawling. 

The attempts by the parents to calm Austin down with reason or logic only seem to make the situation worse. 

“And who’s on the right side of the car?” the mother asks the children calmly. 

“Mommy. And Austin,” responds Abby. 

“So, is there a bear on Austin’s side?”

“Yes,” says Abby, who either actually thought she saw a bear on the highway or is an evil genius mastermind. 

One cannot help but feel for Austin, who must believe he is the only rational actor in this navigational fiasco. Why isn’t anyone else in his family concerned that he is seconds away from being mauled by a much meaner version of his teddy bear? Why can’t dad, for goodness sake, just drive faster? The parents offer to get out and actually look for the bear, which only riles him up further.

GPS’s instructions to “bear right” have befuddled and confused many others. Entire comment threads from confused drivers have been devoted to figuring out what “bear right” actually means. It’s just one of those curious turns of phrase in the English language that doesn’t often get uttered in person. 

Hope you enjoyed your trip to the zoo, Austin, and that the GPS didn’t lead you astray again.

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*First Published: Apr 3, 2016, 12:51 pm