Thursday, October 10, 2013

Are Prius owners bad drivers?

Now before you storm my house with pitchforks and torches for making such an irresponsible unfounded outrageous charge, just know that I have a Prius.

And lately I’ve heard numerous people say when they’re on the road they go out of their way to avoid Priuses (or is it Priuii?). They contend that Prius drivers are entranced by the dashboard and the constant fuel consumption calibration. I personally don’t bother with that.  I'm too busy blasting the radio.  

I’ve posed this question to other Prius owners and many sheepishly admit they do steal numerous glances at their dashboard. I mean, what’s the point of getting great gas mileage if you can’t monitor it and congratulate yourself on how smart you were to buy a Prius?

One feature in the Prius that hampers me is the horizontal stripe in the back window that obscures the view in the rear view mirror. My wife, who is the primary driver of the car, isn’t bothered by that. But I am, and I wonder why the hell it’s even there? There’s also a blind spot.

I’ve surveyed a few Prius owners and they seem split fifty-fifty on this issue. But considering the number of Priuses on the road, if even half see this as an issue that’s still  a lot of folks squinting in traffic.

My other issue is the new navigation system. The new map sucks. It’s gray with white lines and white script. It’s like looking at a complicated blueprint or the Burlington logo. From what I understand, Prius has received lots of complaints about this. Of course I could just be spoiled. I’m used to the Lexus map, which is great. Easy to read, freeway traffic displayed, and the GPS voice is soothing, reassuring, and never belittles me.

The Prius is a terrific car. It handles well, looks pretty cool, and it is nice to be able to pass a gas station charging $4.75 a gallon for regular and yell out, “Fuck you!” But, inadvertently, are we Priusers not driving as well as we did in other cars? I don’t know. You tell me. What’s your experience – both as a Prius driver and fellow motorist? I imagine we won’t be able to arrive at a definitive answer. It’s not like Porsche drivers. We all know they’re dicks. And they get shitty gas mileage.

53 comments:

Chas said...

Prius owner are the best drivers on the road. They are also the kindest, most generous, thoughtful and compassionate individuals on earth. They are all saints.

Sal said...

Every driver on the road is an idiot, except me.

sara dallas said...

In my humble opinion, steer clear or Volvo drivers.

sara dallas said...

Should read, of Volvo drivers

Chuck Powers said...

Chas - you must be a comedy writer...or you're trying to get laid by a Prius driver...

Wendy M. Grossman said...

In the UK, there's a certain class of motorist that derides the Prius by calling it a "Pious". I have ridden in Priuses and have noted no driver peculiarities.

wg

Eric Griffith said...

Officially from Toyota, multiples are called "Prii." Seriously.

Sung said...

I've never loved a car before my Prius. And since love is blind, and since blindness is not conducive to good driving, we can logically assume that at least I am a terrible driver. Oh, and I'm Asian, too, so I think this means I win...?

The thing I've noticed most about Prius drivers is that they just aren't sexy enough. Every time I see one on the road, I turn my head with high hopes that it'll be some blonde goddess (Adonis is OK, too, I'm not picky), but no, it's some guy or gal with glasses, possibly multiple chins, and hair that would be better kept under a hat.

Of course, the funny thing is that these drivers, when they look over at me, are thinking the exact same thing.

But back to the question at hand -- Prius drivers tend to drive slower, tend to accelerate less, etc. When I average 80 on the highway, my mileage drops to 43MPG. At 73, it goes up to 46MPG. I like 46 more than 43.

MtP said...

All hypermilers are tools. The ones that do it in the HOV lane or the left lane are the worst

Now prius drivers often are in this class, AND offend by having special privileged status granting them access to the High Occupancy lanes without any passengers.

that said I haven't noticed prius drivers being a special class of bad drivers

Phillip B said...

Gas mileage is among the most dreadful subjects of endless conversation with acquaintances. Others include back problems, golf, refinancing a mortgage, and childbirth.

Bill said...

I just feel bad that you live in a state where gas is $4.75 per gallon.

Amy Alkon said...

There seems to be such a thing as the green "halo effect," in which people who buy green products feel they have license to act like jerks.

(And I say this as a person who drives a 2004 Honda Insight and who spent $93 on gas last year -- all year.)

Anonymous said...

Compared to BMW drivers, Any other car driver is a saint.

McAlvie said...

No comment on the Prius, as I don't have one.

But I sympathize with your difficulty in reading the navigation panel. I've noticed that gray and white has been the trend for a lot of things in recent years, and I hate it. My alarm clock, for example, has pale gray markings on the buttons which are impossible to read, or even see, in very low light. I'm sure it's supposed to be a cool, modern look; but it's mostly pointless if you can't see them!

John said...

Drove to Arlington this past weekend for the Cowboys-Broncos game (regular gas at the QT station -- $2.99 a gallon) and saw a Prius that looked like it lost a minor battle with the vehicle behind it, but also had a piece of the front bumper molding flapping in the breeze. I don't know if that says anything about the driver, since I had my own vehicle damaged at the end of July while it was parked in front of the office, so the Prius driver could be just as innocent. But I'll bet the flapping bumper cut down on the gas mileage.

(On the other hand, driving down near Austin back the spring, I was far more irked by the Prius driver who shot past on the 60 mph segment of U.S. 290 doing about 75 mph -- if you bought the thing to get better gas mileage, you're kind of defeating the purpose of the thing by driving over the speed limit and burning excess fuel.)

Johnny Walker said...

We British DREAM of paying $4 a gallon! That'd be less than half of what we pay now. Of course we spend less time in our cars than you, and tend to have excellent public transport (by comparison). Plus all our healthcare is free. Actually, never mind, you can keep your cheap gas.

This Prius deal sounds like confirmation bias to me, like full moons being associated with "crazy" behaviour.

Here in the UK, aside from Taxi drivers, we consider white vans to be the worst driven on the road. They have poor visibility and are usually driven by first timers who have rented the thing to move apartment.

J. Allison said...

Glancing at your mileage pales in comparison to texting, eating, applying makeup, reading (really!), and other things you see "drivers" doing on the road. Extraneous and distracting information presented to the driver is obviously dangerous, though, so cars that do more of this are probably something of an issue.

As for the HOV lane usage, here in California a limited number of passes were issued and those are long gone. Prius buyers are no longer eligible for an exception. I always thought this was stupid anyway (and I own a Prius). The purpose of the HOV lane is to get cars off the road. So it should be for two or more licensed drivers. Your 3-year-old doesn't count; he wasn't going to be driving anywhere on his own anyway.

Corey said...

Bro,
I wonder if anything Chas said has rubbed off on your aggressive, get-the-hell-out-of-my-way driving technique....

Wayne said...

Is it true PRIUS stands for Prick Riding In Ugly Scooter?

Dan Ball said...

My dad works for the Toyota plant that makes Camrys, Avalons, Venzas, and soon a Lexus model. So I'm gonna be biased. But I'm glad to know you all like your Prii! Keep paying my dad so he can keep bailing out my bohemian/writer ass! :D

Seriously, I'm driving a 2005 Matrix and at one point, it was considered one of the top 10 green cars and used to get about 30 mpg. I guess that's considered average and it's child's play to the Prius. It's my first car and I bought it new in '04 and it's like the Millennium Falcon, man. We've been to Hell and back, seemingly, and it's got the scars/hail damage to prove it, but it still runs great.

Jason said...

I've been a Prius owner for 10 years next month.. For the first year, I looked at the dash a lot. Now I really don't...

(And the Prius is the first car I ever really *wanted*, and I've been very happy with it for 155k miles so far)

Everyone else is just jealous :p

Rick Fane said...

When I'm driving my slightly vintage Porsche 944, I prefer to be called, Richard. Thanks.

Pat Reeder said...

I'm with John. We live in Grand Prairie, right next to Arlington, between Dallas and Ft. Worth, and gas at all the nearest stations is $2.99 a gallon. With my Kroger discount, $2.89. And the only Prius owner I know is Brian Griffin, so I can't say if their drivers are good or bad. To be safe, I always assume that all drivers other than me are homicidal maniacs, and I haven't been disappointed yet.

I have to admit that my image of Prius drivers is like Ed Begley on "The Simpsons," when he drove away in a go-cart powered by his own sense of self-satisfaction.

tb said...

I drive a lot, so I'm always rating cars and drivers. It's the SUV's that say GMC on 'em. They're the worst offenders. Followed by Range Rover idiots. No problems with Prius drivers. But you HAVE to see the South Park episode about this. The "cloud of smug" threatens to join the one over SF and become a superstorm, just another hilarious SP

Jean said...

Nope -- here I avoid Lexus. It appears to the preferred brand of the young and stupid "Live hard and die young, with intent to take a few more out with me" people.

AngstOne said...

What you're overlooking is the dangerous phenomena known as PCD or Prius Compensation Disorder. Prius drivers realize that they they've traded some measure of performance for mileage and eco piety. In a lead footed attempt to convince themselves that their testosterone hasn't dropped as their MPG soared, they start wheeling around like they're auditioning for The Fast & The Furious 9:Encino Drift.

I mocked this syndrome for years before buying my own Prius last month. Probably best to stay out of my way while I work through this.

thomas tucker said...

You're never going to have as much fun as a Porsche driver, regardless of gas mileage. Prius's are for Puritans.

Karl said...

I bought a Ford C Max a few months back. It's a nice compromise: I can still surprise a fair few people off the lights, but I feel terribly guilty about it.

benson said...

I know I'll get ripped for this...but two words: Chevy Volt!
The single best ride I've ever experienced. I don't care about the green part, but you can drive gas free in town and when you need to go further, no range anxiety. And in a small way, it gets us off Middle Eastern Oil.

ODJennings said...

I looked at the dash the first week, but after that I don't pay any attention to it.

The bar on the rear window is annoying. Even more annoying is the fact that they think we need a windshield wiper to keep what's above the bar clear, one that takes a very expensive wiper blade my dealer wants to replace at every oil change.

If it has a major flaw it's the side posts on either side of the windshield. Those create a huge blind spot.

On the other hand, the heat and more importantly, the air conditioning don't drive off the engine. Instead, they run off an electric motor, which means they run at full efficiency even when you're sitting at idle in bumper to bumper traffic. Unlike Hondas where the A/C clutch is set to disengage whenever the engine drops below a fixed RPM level--which means you have zero a/c if you're stopped, and it cannot be adjusted (or so said my dealer).

Blair Ivey said...

A few years ago I rented a Prius for the day to check it out. The rear window is a problem, as is the B-pillar. It blocks your view when you look back to change lanes. I never really felt safe changing lanes because I had to depend solely on the mirror. The front air dam is problematic; it's way too easy to scrape on speed bumps and on curbs while parking. I imagine that a regular driver would get used to that, but the visibility problems put the Prius in the 'no buy' category for me.

Brian said...

The driving seems OK, just please - do you really need a bumpber sticker on your Prius that says "Save the plantet!" or somethign to that effect? Isn't driving a Prius enough?

Veronica said...

***Friday question***
1) In "Goodbye Radar" - was Alda's finger dislocated in real life and you just wrote it into the script?
I've always wondered how often writers have to write an injury/bad haircut etc.. into a script if the actors have done something in real life.

Back to the prius question....prius fine with, it's the SMART cars that should be off the road. TOO small

Pete Grossman said...

A Prius story from the great Whole Foods satire piece by Kelly MacLean:

I pull up this morning, I see a pregnant lady on the crosswalk holding a baby and groceries. This driver swerves around her and honks. As he speeds off I catch his bumper sticker, which says 'NAMASTE'. Poor lady didn't even hear him approaching because he was driving a Prius. He crept up on her like a panther.

Definitely worth the whole (foods?) read:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kelly-maclean/surviving-whole-foods_b_3895583.html

Mike McCann said...

Living in CT, where regular averages $3.85/gallon, I appreciate the benefits of my Honda Insight (the knockoff Prius). I, too have that annoying bar in the middle of the rear window. The worst part of that is that in rain or snow (we're in the frozen North), the bottom (vertical) half of the window gets no wipes and is often covered in messy, muddy spray.

I know what you mean about watching the mpg gauge -- it influences how one drives; you drive with a lighter touch and are less likely to pull out and quickly pass a slowpoke. After all, if lead foot drops you from 43.0 to 42.9 -- and you see it happen right in front of your eyes -- your guilty conscience leads you to mend your ways.

Jim Russell said...

@Eric Griffith - I was going to suggest "Prii" as the correct plural, so thanks for confirming its official status. I assume it should be pronounced PREE-eye.

Janet T said...

I think South Park covered this topic the best- All the Prius drivers were so proud of themselves they caused a Smug alert- yes smug, not smog.
Is the aveerage mileage thing why they always seem to be driving at no more than 55 mph,rather than the posted 65? We tend to blow by them in our Dodge truck doing just under 75 mph. Gotta love a V8

RCP said...

The best gas mileage I ever got was with my first car, a '65 VW Bug: $3.75 to fill it with regular gas - and that lasted about a week. This hardly compensated for the car's drawbacks, however: it was canary yellow (hard to be cool in high school while driving a happy face on wheels), the horn sounded like the Roadrunner, and (as I discovered just in time) the underbelly was so rusted that if the engine hadn't died when it did, I would have soon crashed through it. But that mileage!

KatePowers said...

I can't believe no one's talked about the Prius Poke. This was reported to me by a Prius driver, that between the big ass battery in the trunk and the electric motor, the Prius accelerates like an ancient Golden Retriever. It can build up speed eventually, but to start with, it's slow as hell.

Since then, I've noticed that being behind a Prius at a freeway onramp is an exercise in terror, as you find yourself going 38 mph right next to 85 mph traffic that you're trying to merge into.

I don't hold the drivers responsible for this, but I do tend to avoid getting on freeways behind Prii now.

On a related road-safety note: Am I the only person to notice the ridiculously draconian Culver City police tickets-for-jaywalking sweep going on right now? I see at least one dumbfounded pedestrian a day, standing next to a motorcycle cop. And they're not flighty kids. Old guys, office workers, etc.

Walk safe out there, people!

John said...

I don't care if you are a hypermiler. Just do it in the right hand lane.

Anonymous said...

For the longest time I thought that turn signals didn't come standard on most Prius models...

Bubba Gurney said...

I'll keep my 11mpg 1969 Corvette L-88 and simply blast past the smug Prius left lane hogs on the right..tweak the steering wheel to the right, it the accelerator, steer left (extra points for less than 12" between bumpers when pulling back in) and watch the gas gauge go down while accelerating up to 100mph. Yahoo!

Greg said...

**Friday question**
With Glee doing their Cory Monteith tribute show this week, do writers object to storylines that include real life tragedies, especially ones where a cast member dies?

ODJennings said...

"I can't believe no one's talked about the Prius Poke. This was reported to me by a Prius driver, that between the big ass battery in the trunk and the electric motor, the Prius accelerates like an ancient Golden Retriever. It can build up speed eventually, but to start with, it's slow as hell."

Not to quibble, but my Prius (an older one) will do 0-60 in under 10. Not a rocketship, but fast enough to screw with the occasional teenager next to me at a stoplight.

Actually, because the electric motors at the wheels provide instant torque, I suspect the 0-25mph time is actually pretty impressive. My daily commute has a stoplight right before two lanes narrow to one, and I can almost always beat the guy next to me. Even if I can't beat them, I generally make them look over and give me a "WTF?" look as they pass me.

I've had mine for 8 years and 100,000 miles and the only repair was some silly relay that the computer said was about to fail (Shades of HAL in 2001). Since I bought the lifetime Sirius Radio package, I'm planning to drive it forever just to screw Sirius.

Mike said...

You don't care about gas prices?
You mean you don't have to buy gas if you have a Prius? Then what is the mileage measuring?

Prius is people wearing their religion on their sleeve, and here the religion is environmentalism.

Ellen said...

I judge a driver not by the make of his automobile, but by the ethnicity of his heritage.

I'm kidding. Of COURSE I judge drivers by their cars.

Prius drivers are good. They will inherit the earth. Hummer drivers are bad. They will all rot in hell.

And Lexus drivers are the slowest, and hesitate for interminable seconds when the light turns green.

But watch out for aggressive minivan drivers. There is always someplace else we need to be.

Jeffro said...

Saturn drivers are the worst in both judgement and driving skill. Thank goodness they're a dying breed.

McAlvie said...

Johnny Walker -

Personally, I don't complain about the price of gas because you're right - we have it good compared to so many other countries. As for the state of public transpo - it's a regional thing, and in some cases it is really quite good. The northeast corridor, from DC up into the New England area, have pretty good train service, and commuter trains between DC and Baltimore, NY, Philly run very regularly. DC being a major commuter city, we also have a number of bus options, both one servicing the entire metro area and some operated by municipalities. Then there's our quite good subway service which, although we complain a lot, is clean and quiet. Also expensive, but you can't have everything.

But, yes, we do spend more time in our cars. Of course we also have a lot more empty space between cities, so that has to be factored in. However, I would really like to see more rail service in general, and I envy the UK it's rail system.

chuckcd said...

Every time I drive past a Prius
I expect to see Ned Flanders behind the wheel.

Jonathan Bredemeyer said...

Yes, Prius drivers are, by nature of the vehicle, bad drivers. Bad driving comes built in. There should be a warning label or special training included with the purchase of each Prius to educate the new owner of the exact process to launch a multi-ton piece of metal at unsuspecting victims who can't hear it coming. My theory is that Prius drivers stop listening and reacting to the sounds of other cars because they aren't used to their own, thereby removing sound as a feedback mechanism in the driving process. This includes blinkers, as somehow coasting along to achieve that vaunted 99 mpg rating relieves the driver of the courtesy to alert others when he or she is turning or changing lanes. In the name of your gas mileage, I will of course use my 6th sense to detect and dodge my multi-ton piece of metal out of your way immediately, which most of the time goes unnoticed.

The proof is in the traffic: http://evworld.com/news.cfm?newsid=26659 Hybrids were removed from California HOV lanes and then let back in because allowing them free reign over all lanes slowed down the entire traveling population. It was so bad, in fact, they were let back in as soon as logistically possible.

On the plus side, drivers' reaction times are dropping as silent but deadly Priuses continue to switch lanes blinkerlessly, keeping the auto population in a suspended state of terror when within a car-length of a Prius...

So, no, Prius owners aren't bad drivers... when not driving a Prius...

rong zheng said...

I'm one of these folks driving over 75 mph with prii on highway everyday, trust me, it still save gases and doesn't drain your wallet when you fill the tank like camry

Ron Simmons said...

Ron:
Ten years ago, wanting to help reduce carbon emissions, I took a Prius for a test drive. Then, and for ten years, I refused to buy the car because of poor (unsafe) driver visibility: front posts, rear window bar and rear body posts. Many other manufacturers and models have followed this unsafe-for-the-road insanity in their designs. Recently I sat in a Chevy Volt (their concept is a good one), but I did not even drive it; the visibility was as bad as the Prius, if not worse, with overwrought and distracting read-outs as well. This ticks me off; corporations are sacrificing safety for some idea of "sexy design". To lawmakers out there: pass a rear visibility standard for autos that is safe for children that may be behind a backing auto (and adults in the next lane).
So, last year I bought a Coda all-electric car--mainly because it has sane visibility (about like a Corolla or Civic). The Coda, to my surprise, will probably out-accelerate a Camaro from a stoplight. The cost for a 90-mile charge on the Coda is about $3.25 in electricity. My goal is to charge the Coda from my own photovoltaic panels.

krigsmakten said...

Never driven one - but been in many (taxis) around the world. I can confirm that the rear seat is cramped (6', 175lbs).

Also see many in traffic - that I pay attention to and steer clear of as I pass them. Generally speaking they come with unpredictable, poor drivers.

I think this is the car Volvo buyers have moved on to. This and Lexus. Worst drivers, don't pay attention, and are incurably concerned with gas mileage and reliability at the expense of any other issue.

Cars are supposed to be responsive and interesting - not a dead, albeit reliable transporter that schleps you from A to B. The Prius us a boring car for boring people.