Kari Byron, Mythbuster Mom: New Year’s Resolution and My Drive to the Grocery Store

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KariHelicopter1jpgThe luxury car weaving wildly through traffic, without using a turn signal, just cut me off. While I slam on the brakes, he is looking in his rearview mirror, without apology, to either see if I am mad or just check me out. I am grinding my teeth, trying desperately to hold in the tsunami of expletives and gripping the steering wheel so that my twitching trigger finger does not rise.

“Take a deep breath. His punishment is that he has to be him for the rest of his life,” I say to myself.

I glance in my mirror to see my smiling daughter talking to her bear. The world is mine again.

I think back to my first driving lesson. Not the one when I was 16 and I almost hit that fruit stand. Instead, I’m remembering a time when I was about 5, in the back seat of my dad’s car. A similar situation faced us, but the subsequent reaction was a sort of suburban vengeance. We screeched around the offender’s car and cut him off at a dangerous distance all while my dad flipped the bird. The look of satisfaction on his face was my lesson. Until I had Stella, I might have been tempted to react in a similar fashion. I mean seriously, how satisfying is it to “teach someone a lesson?”

…But does it really? Is the world a better place now? Doubtful.

So here is my New Year’s resolution: I am going to drive like the person I want to be.

Maybe you are how you drive. The luxury car jerk is either an entitled sadist or oblivious to how he disrupts the world, only to get to the light at the same time as the rest of us. That lady in the SUV who breezed through that stop sign and pretends not to see that old man crossing the street with his dog: perhaps a narcissist. She doesn’t have time to wait for a neighbor, but cares enough about what he thinks to stare straight ahead as if she didn’t see him. She did. Then finally, a young girl in a beat-up two-door, slows down and waves me into her lane. Polite and considerate, her little gesture did make my world a better place.

How amazing would the roads and the world be if everyone let you into their lane when you needed to get over? What if a turn signal wasn’t considered an act of aggression? What if we all waited at crosswalks and waved in thanks when someone let us in front of them?

Since I can only control my little world, that is my resolution. I am going to teach my daughter to drive.

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102 thoughts on “Kari Byron, Mythbuster Mom: New Year’s Resolution and My Drive to the Grocery Store

  1. Actually, I’m from small town Iowa, and it is pretty close to that, you always wave to the farmers and the amish, I walk everywhere and more times then not cars will stop at a green light and wave me through the cross walk.

    Wow, I’m usually bashing Iowa, but I guess it does have it’s good points too. Thanks for sharing Kari. 🙂

    1. Well now, as i read all about it. It just so happens i was on the other end of this situation, but still a victim of ruidness. As i was headed home the other night,i come apon a slow moving semi. So i signal to change lanes and a Chevy Suburban speeds up to keep me from moving over. So to show the Suburban that being ruid can back fire,i switched lanes and what do you know. The driver changed their attatude after the Suburban swerved to avoid me.
      Was it road rage ? Nooo !!! Was it me being in a hurrry ? nope !!! It was lack of sleep on my behalf. I do believe MythBusters did a seagment on that, & i think it needs to be redone.
      I have stayed up 36 hours straight & it was nothing like MytheBusters portreyed, much worse & scarier then they showed.I know this because i drive tired all the time,i would even challenge MytheBusters to redo of that seagment.

  2. Hi Kari
    Excellent post !! You are so right !! I don’t claim to be a “perfect Christian” (whatever that may be: I haven’t been to church in years), but have people forgotten the “Golden Rule” ?? I have a slightly different perspective. At the moment I am “car-less” so I get to my “on-call part-time” job by walking. To make things even more “interesting”, most of the way, I am actually walking on the side of the road because there are no sidewalks. Amazingly, most of the drivers here in Jackson, MI are more than willing to share the road with me. My way of encouraging “good” behavior, is I salute (with a big grin) every driver who either slows down, or goes towards the middle of the road to go around me.

  3. I have driven in San Francisco and as bad as it is there, it’s twice as bad here in Utah where I am now. I actually sometimes find myself wishing the drivers here were as considerate as those in California (scary, right?). In the past, I have probably driven both like the guy in the luxury car and like your father in your story, but what I came to realize is that nobody benefits. In reality, the guy in the luxury car got to his destination MAYBE up to a minute faster than he would have in reality. I just realized that risking lives is not worth shaving a few seconds off your arrival time, no matter the destination. Retaliation is even worse because not only are you driving like a jerk but you’re angry and distracted besides. I love you on Mythbusters and I appreciate this post, Kari. It feels good to know that others out there are trying to change their driving habits for the better as well, even celebrities like yourself.

  4. Very intelligent piece of writing and an excellent resolution especially when you must drive in the SF Bay Area. (I used to commute from San Jose to Oakland daily) Kari’s right on the money and sharing the most important lesson of all with us. Raise our kids the right way and realize they are watching and see everything we do even when we think they are not.

    By the way, you are no geek. You are a major league babeasaurus

  5. There are rude ignorant jerks everywhere. I too fight the urge to retaliate. (With help from my wife/conscience.) But I do find that in the smaller towns and flyover country this behavior is significantly more rare. Big fan.

  6. What wonderful advice for everyone. Not just us working geek moms, truly everyone. Congrats on learning the lesson now to teach what you want the kids to do. Being considerate is not just an “old time value” it is a current day value and unfortunately one that is not as easily come by as we would hope. Teach your children how you want them to behave by behaving that way yourself, not just driving but everywhere. One child at a time we can make the world better.

  7. These bad drivers I’m hearing about with the speeding and cutting off and flipping back and forth through the lanes……..sounds like 90% of police all over the world. Those of you that slow down on a freeway in California with people behind you to let someone over are just as dangerous as those that are speeding and cutting through lanes, not to mention it is also illegal to do so in California. Driving safely is a good idea, but when people go overboard to the point of going no faster than 10mph under the speed limit and slamming their brakes on oj the freeway because someone a half a mile in front of them tapped their brakes? That is dangerous and I hate you for it. Just follow the traffic laws for the area and keep your eyes open. Oh and btw, why would your rear-view mirror be positioned so that instead of seeing behind your car you see into the back seat? That is unsafe distracted driving as well! Just as bad if not worse than driving while on a phone or driving drunk!

    1. “rear-view mirror be positioned so that instead of seeing behind your car you see into the back seat? That is unsafe distracted driving as well! Just as bad if not worse than driving while on a phone or driving drunk!”

      Just a thought in reply to your assumption that her rear view mirror is positioned to view the back seat… either she has the rear view mirror at an angle so that she can see both out of her rear window as well as into the back seat, or she might have one of the those extra mirrors that attach so that you can check on your children in the back seat (which is a lot safer than turning your head around, looking over your shoulder). Don’t assume the worst… get the details first.

  8. I have been to alot of places around the world. Worst I seen is south Europa, the island is very bad, on one of them the police have giving up controling traffic and just ask ppl to drive better.

    Best place I seen english part of cananda, their even stop to let you cross where there is no crossing.

  9. Guys, you might all want to follow Kari’s example. Studies show that your kids will copy your driving style way more than that of their friends, or anything their long-suffering driving instructor can try to teach them. And I should know – I’m a long-suffering driving instructor!

  10. Heres a night i wont forget!

    While driving towards my husbands work on new years eve, i t-boned a drunk drver while he was making a left turn.
    a little more to the story is…
    i was heading down a one way road and this guy stops his car at the end of his driveway. Thinking to myself he stopped i took my foot off the break and started to accelerate back to 50 km (im canadian btw :D) then he bolted out of his driveway and went left on the one way street. I nailed him!
    the whole time from me hitting him and from him getting out of his car was nothing but him screaming at me. thank god there are angels after christmas because the guy behind me grabed me out of the car and asked if i was ok? and went up to the drunk driver and asked what kind of an idiot makes a turn on a one way street right into traffic? the drunk driver was adimate that it was all my fault and i need to watch where i am driving, he slurred everyword. You could smell the aclohol on his breath from 10 meters away.
    The man who helped me walked up to the man and said “I am an officer of the law and your underarrest!”
    not sure how to finish because shortly after that i woke up in the hospital.
    I have a new years resolution just not sure how to word it, but i now look at life diffrently from that night.

  11. Well written! I used to drive a lot (+25K/yr) and I have seen both sides. When I feel myself getting frustrated at other drivers I try to put myself where they are. Am I driving like an idiot? If the answer is ‘yes’ than I need to change. I cannot make the traffic better or stop the jerk driving too fast. I can calm down and enjoy music, the scenery or if someone is in the car, conversation. I do not have to be affected by foolish drivers.

    I think we all need to have this as a new years resolution, and maybe by next year it will just be a habit.

  12. So when you were 16 you “nearly” hit a fruit stand – and later on in your career you got to see what would have happened if you had hit it!

  13. Good on ya, Kari. Narcissism…yup…it’s everywhere. Maybe it’s natural, but I can’t help but think if people really thought about what they did, or realized how little time they’re actually saving pushing to go faster, they’d modify their behavior, as you are.

  14. Well said! I moved to a much smaller town three and a half years ago, and have only been home a couple of times since then. I just got back here a few weeks ago and have been really taken aback at how aggressively people are driving here. And thinking back to times I drove that way too. So, your post comes at an interesting time when I’ve also been thinking, “I refuse to give in to that behavior.” It does no one any good if we all get more and more aggressive in the way we drive, it just causes more stress and more accidents.

  15. Kari: I liked your blog it. Your blog was not only very well written speaks very well of the for it’s self. As a disabled person who sole means of transportation is a powerchair. I know all to well how very ugly it can get out there and I have to not deal with it multiple times a day do so with out any real protection. I get sick and tired of drivers who think a fancy car buys them the right away and the the right to be rude to all others. I do everything I can I ride my powerchair as deffensively as posible being as careful as I can yet even still I have multiple close calls a day. Usually by idiot drivers that blast thru the cross walk while I am still in it. Never mind the the law says a pedestrian has legal right away curb to curb no exception. That means the drivers have to stop and wait until the podestrian is safe on the other curb. Sad thing is those idiot drivers just blast thru pretending not to see you or if the do they simply don’t care. another thing the law says that the driver claiming they didn’t see some one no excuse. cause the law says the driver should have seen them period. I had this one so called elderly christian woman screem at me as she missed by a few inches – that she wouldn’t be responcibile if she mowed me down cause it would be gods will.- I won’t tell you what I think of that remark my response is not worth repeating. except I am proud to be a pagan. OK what part of this is a human life crossing the street don’t those idiot drivers under stand. . Yet I see daily people that care more about their dog or the cellphone thats seem to be glued to their ears. Excuse me but people driving with your elbow is something I should not ever see and I see this all to often it is not safe nor is it legal. Few of you out there can imagin the pure shear horror of getting hit by a car because the driver was an idiot and at fault. I can three times over the first time put me in a chair for life and left me with seizures and migrains. The psychological toll has been allot worse, because of the first accident I now live in darkness no other way to put it. I have been forced to go on prescription sleep meds strong enough to keep me from dreaming otherwise my nightmares are suicidel or hellish it has also forced me to change my diet as well. to go vegetarian. because I have found that hormones american meat makes my seizures and migrains worse. on top of that even though I am on a really good migrain medication. I still end up having some migrains few can Imagin what it is like to have pain so intense that you have no choice but to scream just to try to get vent fustraition of it, I do it is a part of my life. People need to realize when they get behind the wheel of a car it is just like a gun it could be a human life if you are not careful. I live my life moment by moment doing for my self the best I can. how ever these days I try push the thought out of my head. That every time I head out the door that this will be my last day one earth. Cause of some idiot driver just didn’t care. Rather I try to enjoy each day the best I can

  16. Hi Kari, I have been a coast to coast truck driver for 18 years (2.5M career miles) and was a police officer 10 years prior to that. Two things that I have learned about drivers, no matter how many wheels on the vehicle, is that (1) their impatience gets them into the most trouble the quickest and (2) a little courtesy goes a very long way.

    Big Fan/

  17. I grew up Driving in Chicago…. I found very quickly that everyone in Chicago in a car wants to kill you. They cut your off, run lights and the like. There are only two types of people on foot in Chicago Pedestrians on sidewalks and targets in the street. They will actually speed up and angle towards you if you are in the street. The only reason you can cross at a red light is you have strength in numbers. “They can’t kill us all” is the mentality.

    Then I moved to central Ohio…. I got three speeding tickets in the first 6 mos. and nearly killed every day. I tried to figure out why I was having such a hard time, I mean I actually got waved through 4 Way stops and people were generally nice.

    But then I figured it out. In Chicago they want to kill YOU. In Central Ohio they want you to kill them…. so they jump out in front of you, and wave you through…plus only half of them are nice. Which ones you can’t tell by looking.

    So…sure I was in fear for my life every day in Chicago…but at least I knew what people were going to do. :->

  18. That’s the attitude everyone in life should take and not just when it comes to driving. If everyone was a little more considerate of others and not just themselves the world would be a better place and future generations would have something to look up to.

    Anyway, I applaud your forgiving nature and self restraint. Now if there were only a way you could all children/teenagers to drive.

  19. My daughter will be 16 in May. Fortunately I have been doing this with her and her brothers for a few years now. I make comments like, “If we just wait patiently, the traffic will clear.” or “Don’t worry about the people behind you, just wait until you can go safely.” I guess I’ll find out in May if it has had any effect.

  20. Karma, baby. Karma!

    If I get agitated and the finger gets itchy… I just remember Karma is a fierce and consistent master.

  21. Kari, what a wonderful way to think. I was told by my father when I was a young boy, The Best Way To Keep Someone From Getting Your Goat, is by not letting them know they got it! And just smile 🙂 More times than not they will not bother you, you will have defused the issue, and you are the better example.

  22. Try driving in Denmark, I think you would be pleasantly surprised, I recognise what you’re describing from when I had to take long drives down through Europe, the first time really made me realize how silly kind and good we all drive back at home. (Denmark)

    What we consider rude, and annoying in our day to day drives to the store/work/School, is just nothing compared to other countries.

  23. I just love the comment “His punishment is that he has to be him for the rest of his life” but sadly our punnishment is that we have to put up with people like that and they are everywhere we go even down here in Oz.

  24. This reminds me of a sign that hangs in the lodge at the Girl Scout camp my daughters went to. It said, “A girl is watching you. What is she learning?”

  25. Kari, you need to do like me: Drive a Taxi cab for a few months. OK, maybe a few days.

    I’m an Arab immigrant with a masters degree, who did not find any job on my first arrival, except driving a taxi.Now I’m a Casino Executive over 1400+ employees. That Taxi driving job have hammered my feelings, and numbed my road rage (and job rage) for ever. Try driving 14 to 16 hours a day in New York City, and you’ll never lose your cool again for the rest of your life.

    Really, try it

  26. I noticed that when my grandfather, a product of the ’50s in England, drives, he’s always thanking people with a wave for not pulling out of a right-hand (would be a left over here) in front of him. It always struck me as odd, to thank people for obeying the rules; Y’know, probably the kind of thing more people need to be doing. So many forego the rules, it’s nice to see someone being pleasant on the roads.

  27. Kari What I have been wondering is if & how do a lot of people get their drivers licenses? It seems very few people can merge into traffic! I even saw a cop stop at the start of a merge lane that he was turning into!Don’t they even teach what the lane is for & how to us it? It kills me when people need 3 car lengths at a stop light blocking access to the turn lane. Don’t even get me startted on cell phones & make up! There are times that we all could use a Stella moment when driving & just smile & shrug it off!

  28. The magical world of polite drivers and pedestrians you just described is called ‘Canada’. I live there. It’s pretty great.

    Excuse me while I take 5 seconds out of my day to feel better than a Mythbuster. It beats the usual crushing inadequacy by comparison.

  29. I live in New Zealand and have drivers pull out into the road in front of me without indicating all the time. They also frequently tailgate me even when I’m going at the speed limit of 50kph. They often don’t indicate correctly on roundabouts or when they pull over to the side of the road. They regularly don’t let pedestrians cross at the traffic lights before turning (even though our road code says pedestrians have the right of way). I could go on…
    It’s just as well I’m a patient person, otherwise I’d be swearing at other drivers more than I already do. 🙁
    Kari’s resolution is one we should all follow!

  30. i live in south florida and every body lets you infront of them but no one lets you in to the next lain they speed up so you cant get over

  31. This actually happened to me this morning on my way to work. . .at Discovery, where Mythbusters lives! Traffic in the DC region is, to say the least, horrible. Last night it took me 45 minutes to go 3 miles. I thought I was going to implode. And with my young son in the back, innocently watching Elmo, he was witness to my lost temper this morning. Jerk in SUV, talking on cell phone (illegal in MD) almost hit me while jetting across two lanes of traffic to get into my turn lane. I tooted my horn and cursed up a storm, because he did not see me and I was not in the mood to be side swiped. And when he glanced back in his side mirror to see me glaring at him, he gave ME the finger and continued to talk on his cell.

    I also made a promise this year to drive with more caution and patience to teach my son that there are ways to get to where you are going without being an ass. But today, that jerk really got to me.

  32. We live at the top of a residential hill with an elementary school down one side & a middle school down the other. Parents (mostly moms) went flying over the hill in their SUV & minivans, so a stop sign was put in at the top of the hill just in front of our home. I was apparently foolishly optimistic that it might make it a bit less risky to back out of our driveway; it is honored more in the breach than the observance. I am continually amazed that no children have been hit in the 16 years we have lived here. And you know those speeding moms (including women I personally know and have seen blow through the stop sign) would be among the first to express outrage if it did happen. Sigh. Thanks, Kari, for starting the conversation. (And for ‘singing’ with my husband at LDRS last June.)

  33. What an awesome new years resolution.

    In the same vain I have created a “positivity challenge” to help make our world a better place by challenging people to be positive and do positive things. If your interested you can find out more here: http://wp.me/PhDXb-9Z

    This isn’t intended to be spam, just trying to add to the positive flow of this topic and fast track our world to being a better place. 🙂

  34. It’s amazing how quickly that little birdee wants to fly while driving even if we never used it before… I did see my mom let it fly a lot.

    I love your resolution…

    PS my kids love you…

  35. You have not lived until you tried crossing a street in the country of Jordan. There, it is suicidal if you attempt to cross the street… literally. To get across from Hotel to store, you have to cross what looks like a freeway with no islands. The cars go 50 mph. It is suicidal. I decided to stay on my side of the road and instead went to another store that was further away, but didn’t have car traffic to get too. (Very long blocks and “dead end” roads are your friend.) the roads might not have actually been dead ends per se, but at least didn’t have anything down there that people wanted to get too. Drivers rarely turned left or right. it was really strange.

  36. Hi Kari, thanks for sharing. I have to drive the inner city roads of Sydney Australia, with my kids every day, I struggle with my temper and find it hard not to give into doing a ‘dad’ when it seems that everyone else is. I realized my girls were saying things like “get past him” and getting excited when I would accelerate. They have shown me clearly that a message is transferred by what I do rather than what I would like them to see. So, I try my best! Harder as they get older and smarter. XS

  37. I recently got a new job that changed my commute to one that’s the same direction everyone else is going, at the same time-traffic. I decided that I would always leave space for others to be able to get in front of me, and generally not behave like its going to make a difference if I get to my destination a few car lengths quicker. I decided that I would not get upset or angry about traffic. Someone asked me “can you really decide that?” Yes! Now, if I am in traffic, I use it as an opportunity to study patterns of traffic flow of different lanes, progress of that car weaving in and out of lanes, people watching, etc. An attitude adjustment, combined with fresh tunes, makes a world of difference to my stress level.

  38. I live in Minnesota where our state saying seems to be, Minnesota Nice. Well if you’ve ever driven here you know that MN Nice goes right out the door and we seem to become either MN Mean or MN Stupid! So, I feel for you Kari! Thank God that you and your precious one came out of it without a scratch and it was that rude drivers lucky day that you didn’t kick his behind right out of town!

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