Study: Prius Drivers Drive Like Pricks


My one, and only, claim to fame is that I am probably one of the only green writers in the world who hates the Toyota Prius. For me, the problem was never the car itself, which is in many ways a technological wonder. No, it was the holier-than-thou attitude of many drivers, who acted like they were saving the world by driving a Prius. As it turns out though, my perception of Prius drivers was not far off from the truth.

A new study that looked at the driving habits of luxury car owners in relation to crosswalks and pedestrians basically established what most people already assumed; rich people drive with a sense of entitlement. The study, which took place in San Francisco, noted that drivers of shiny and expensive cars were 3-times more likely to “plow through” a crosswalk and not stop for pedestrians than drivers of older clunkers. Drivers of expensive cars were also four-times more likely to cut off other drivers at 4-way intersections.

As it turns out though, drivers of shiny and expensive cars aren’t the only a-holes on the road. Toyota Prius drivers failed to yield to pedestrians about ⅓ of the time, putting the Prius amongst the highest “unethical” vehicles. The study calls this phenomenon “moral licensing”, which is essentially the feeling that since they are “saving the world”, the normal rules of the road don’t apply to Prius drivers.

I know this isn’t going to make me any fans among the Prius community…but I still don’t care. Drop the attitude and just drive your damn car without getting all high and mighty about it.

Source: Science Mag

About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.
  • Mark DeCelles

    I wonder if you had ever seen the SOUTH PARK episode about the “PIUS” Prius owners?

  • So it’s not just me…Prius and Smart drivers, it seems, can’t stand to be “out-greened” on the road. I commute by bicycle and get more buzz passes from Prius and Smart drivers then any other models.

    • dude, seriously! The narrowest car on the road and they somehow manage to block me on my motorcycle OR bicycle more than any other car. There aren’t enough Smarts in LA for them to be an issue, so far they seem to be driven by people incapable of taking themselves too seriously, thank god.

      • T Adkins

        That is too bad for where you are at. When I drive my smart I make room for motorcycles, but I know there is enough room on the road for my cage and a bike.

  • danwat1234

    @Mark, I have! “Smug alert”

  • Lee


  • deestreet

    as a San Francisco resident I can attest to the fact that prius drivers are the worst on the road. I would actually drive more cautiously whenever a prius was around. This article is correct although i don’t think it has to do with moral liscence. 1. people who drive prius are not car people and their driving reflects that and 2. in San francisco many people who drive prius are asian.

    • justmega

      That’s funny. Down in SoCal most Prius drivers are white. Your statement was pretty dumb. “Many people who drive prius are asian”. Let me add to that…Many people who drink water are Italian. Here’s another…Many people who walk are Mexican. Shall I attempt another? Many people who breathe are Australian.
      I can attest as a motor coach operator Prius’ are driven by aholes. They drive 75-85MPH, completely defeating the purpose of hybrids, and pass on the right cutting cars off. Range Rovers come in second. Smarts are pretty bad too.

  • This article is not complete without a link to the show:

    It’s so true, and not just in SF. Here in LA, they have replaced Volvos as the absolute worst, most self-involved drivers.

  • DaveD

    Can I get an “AMEN!” brothers!!!

    What really kills me is that they Prius drivers tear around me if I’m coasting up to a red light like I’m somehow stopping them from rushing to the red light 100 feet in front of them! Where do they think they’re going to go when they gun it around me to only stop 50 feet later at the red light? It’s a friggin red light you stupid assholes.

  • Lee

    I think there could be something to this but, has anyone considered that “clunkers” tend to be louder vehicles than tradionally quiet luxury cars and hybrids? At some point, if the pedestrians are more aware of the passing vehicle by hearing it, wouldn’t they be a little more likely check-up before entering the crosswalk? I wonder if the study accounted for this somehow?

    • interesting point, and exactly why I argue that EV’s should make some noise louder than mere tires on pavement. As a cyclist I rely tremendously on the sound of approaching vehicles. As a pedestrian I once walked right in front of a Volt driving toward me, at the Green Car expo. You know, a place where EV’s were swarming. But seriously, if the study also counted how many times drivers yield to other cars, I think it would come up with the same results.

  • Alex

    Its not just on the road. I was in Novato in line at a gas station buying some snacks for a road trip. This very well dress middle aged woman interupts the cashier and myself in mid transaction and conversation by literally shoving a credit card in her face saying something like “give me so and so on pump 4.” I have no idea why she could use the card reader at the pump. I spoke out saying that unless I’d achieved invisibility in past few seconds, I am being helped first. The cashier says it would be a few minutes. She never acknowledged her rudeness and if anything was annoyed she had to wait for me AND the other people in line. Saw her walk out, when I was done at the pump… white Prius with green bumper stickers. A queen B word.

  • sherrie

    I am a proud Prius driver of 5 years. I relish the day the combustion engines bites the dust. I loved to see pick up trucks banned due to their drivers who simply want to tail gate everyone. I love the idea of inprisoning young and old testostorne driven males drag racing, running red lights and showing what an idiot almost all men really are. Guns, drugs, booze and sex is the male reality and that goes twice for redneck good old boys who mostly vote republican. Oh, yes Chris, I am only using your warped sense of reality here. I hope your not as a big of an idiot as you appear in your article.


    • Christopher DeMorro

      @ sherrie

      Nope, I write what I mean and I mean what I write, and the study backs me up.

      Sorry reality sucks.