Why Prius Drivers Have Such a Bad Reputation
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About the Prius
When Toyota came out with the Prius in 2000, it revolutionized the green industry since it was half electric and half gas-powered. Since then, almost every car company has come out with a gas-efficient model to compete within the green market. These models are typically inexpensive to purchase (starting at $24,000), given their tanks only fuel up to 50mpg and up. These cars have an 11.3-gallon tank and 121 horsepower. Most of the people that buy hybrids are generally young to middle-aged men, ranging from middle-class to wealthy. Prius continues to sell well, especially in larger cities around the United States. However, ever since Prius hit the road, their drivers started catching a lot of heat for how they operated their vehicles.
From Urban Dictionary to the “Smug Alert” episode of South Park, pop culture has been making fun of Prius drivers since the very beginning. Personal accounts and articles all over the internet cite Prius drivers as overly slow, overly fast and constantly running stop signs and traffic lights. In addition, they’ve been called out on holier-than-thou behavior due to driving an environmentally-conscious car and reducing their carbon footprint. This is especially true of South Park, where an episode painted Prius drivers as smug know-it-alls who enjoyed rubbing their environmentally friendly cars in another’s attention. In addition, the hatred has gone so far as to having some angry commuters writing online letters to Prius owners, calling them out on their reckless driving.
Some of these stereotypes may find a small basis in truth. A recent study by the Institute of Personality and Social Research at the University of California Berkeley showed a correlation between wealth and bad driving, at least in California. Their study involved monitoring drivers at a crosswalk to see if they would stop for pedestrians. Most drivers followed the law and let the pedestrians cross, about 8 out of 10. But researchers noticed that those who drove luxury or eco-friendly cars were much less likely to stop. Given Priuses are classified as eco-friendly cars, the fault may fall statistically on these drivers. In addition, these cars are typically a status symbol for those who value environmental conservation. Though these particular set of individuals may claim to be “helping the environment,” such drivers still can’t escape the heat of being one of the worst class of drivers out there.
Prius Owners and the Quest for Great MPG
But – WHY do Prius drivers drive like that? There is another reason why a Prius driver may tend to drive slow and brake early – it’s the quest to get the best MPG possible. Priuses have two engines, one gasoline and one electric. The overall purpose is to get these engines to work together to power the car. the reason they brake so often is because people love to see the battery charged to full; despite the waste in gas. Braking and coasting charge the battery and allow for greater fuel efficiency since the gas engine isn’t being used as much. This action results in Prius drivers doing a lot of slow coasting early on from a stop sign or traffic light. Some people even try to stop naturally without ever touching the brake. Also, Prius owners don’t want to kick on the gas engine when they take off from a stop. Taking off slowly ensures that electricity is still powering the car, which makes a lot of people behind them angry. On freeways, the sweet spot for using the electrical power is around 55 mph. Anything faster starts using gas which Prius owners want to avoid. They will likely be in the slow lane poking along while everyone else speeds past. These antics may be a big part of what is angering other motorists.
The Rage Over Carpool
Once Prius vehicles hit the road, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger passed some interesting legislation to encourage more usage of hybrid cars. Certain makes of Toyotas and Hondas that were rated as the highest gas-saving hybrids were granted legal access to the carpool lane even if there was only one person in the car. Seeing a lone person in a Prius whiz by while the rest were stuck in traffic was an aggravating experience for many motorists. People in regular non-hybrid cars traveling in the carpool lane without passengers could be pulled over and fined up to 270 dollars. Given this rationality, of course Prius drivers have garnered some surrounding hate.
Prius Accident and Death Stats
Researchers have confirmed that most deaths that resulted from car accidents occur in small, lightweight cars. While the Prius is a small four-door, around 31 deaths are a result from these small-car accidents. Despite Prius driver’s reputation as notoriously slow and inept, the accident records show that this doesn’t affect accident rates in a statistically significant way. Back in 2016, many models of Prius were recalled due to the parking brake being potentially defective. This didn’t have much of an effect on accident rates, even though Prius drivers were worried. However, this doesn’t seem to be slowing the Prius juggernaut.
Even though Prius accidents and related deaths are relatively low compared to other small cars, this hasn’t stopped Prius drivers from their driving habits. Furthermore, given the special advantage to drive solo in the carpool lane, it’s no wonder many other individuals may have more of a reason to dislike these Prius drivers. Additionally, the Prius stereotype about slow speeds appear to have a big grain of truth. Prius owners who do this are intending on getting lower gas mileage, which makes sense; why even buy a hybrid car in the first place, if you’re not going to take advantage of its best feature? Given this rationale, it looks as if Prius owners will continue to catch heat until Toyota comes up with a way to make the transition between gas and electric engines more suitable for Prius driving speeds.
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