Wealthy Prius drivers can be huge jerks

A researcher says they are more likely to commit infractions behind the wheel than other car owners.

By Kim Peterson Aug 13, 2013 12:46PM
A Toyota Prius drives along highway 101 on November 30, 2010 in Sausalito, Calif. (© Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)Rich people are more likely to be bad drivers with little respect for pedestrians. And Toyota Prius and BMW drivers may be the worst of all.

That's according to Paul Piff, a researcher with the Institute of Personality and Social Research at the University of California Berkeley. He published a paper in 2010 on his research into the relationship between bad driving habits and wealth, and he spoke to The New York Times recently about his findings.

Piff and his team staked out a crosswalk and an intersection in California and watched what happened when pedestrians and cars approached. What they found might not surprise anyone.

In a four-way stop intersection, the pricier cars were more likely to jump ahead when it wasn't their turn to go, Benjamin Preston writes in The New York Times.

The researchers also found that at crosswalks, female drivers were more likely to stop for pedestrians than men. All drivers were more likely to stop for a woman than for a man.

Piff also studied car makes and models in these environments and said BMW drivers are awful at crosswalks. "BMW drivers were the worst," he said.

Prius drivers are also horrible, especially with broader driving infractions. Not what you'd expect from the stereotype of the environmentally conscious, do-gooder Prius owner.

"In our higher-status vehicle category, Prius drivers had a higher tendency to commit infractions than most," Piff told the paper.

Piff has done other tests showing that the wealthy lean toward unethical behavior. He has found that wealthy people are more likely to admit that they would steal paper at work or cheat at a computer game of dice.

Aug 13, 2013 1:40PM
I don't believe the problem is with any specific brand of car, but the driver who doesn't seem to be able to go more than 2 minutes without looking at their phone, or texting.

Are you really that self important???????  I don't think so.

Maybe its not high performance cars, but low performance drivers.
Aug 13, 2013 1:30PM
I agree.  I'd rather be behind anybody than a Prius driver.  They think they own the road and putt along under the speed limit because they are watching their efficiency gauge.  They are rude and oblivious to everybody else on the road.  Nobody minds if they choose to drive slow, but PLEASE, don't do it in the fast lane or the carpool lane.  These lanes are not for people who choose to drive slower than the rate of the rest of the cars on the interstate. They also tend to be talking on their cell phones a lot, even in areas where it is against the law.  BMW drivers are most likely to run red lights, park illegally, cut in front of other cars, and they don't use their signals. 
Aug 13, 2013 2:37PM
Prius owners drive bad because they are pissed off they bought one of the worst rides in history. You run over a pebble in the prius and you think you hit a land mine.
Aug 13, 2013 1:48PM
Funny this article has come out.  Here in California where there is an abundance of Prius, BMW and Mercedes vehicles, I get the same vibes.  Prius drivers for some reason stand out horribly.  I hadn't noticed the intersection thing but on the freeways they seem to be the most obnoxious ones, the ones cutting in front of you, the ones not signaling, hogging the lanes, cutting across the whole road in one swoop in order to jump into the carpool lanes...  BMW and Mercedes drivers are definitely more obnoxious than the rest but that was nothing new.  I hadn't put two and two together to notice this has to do with wealth and a sense of entitlement as I hadn't considered Prius the domain of the rich.  But now that this article has done the study, I agree.  Prius owners, you're on notice you big jerks.
Aug 13, 2013 2:20PM

My classic experience:

While waiting my turn to go on a freeway onramp (I was a solo driver), this chick (a solo driver) in a BMW races up the Car Pool lane onto to the freeway. Her license plate read LILBRAT.



Aug 13, 2013 2:32PM

"Are rich Prius owners jerks?"

I cannot believe this question needed to be asked............

Aug 13, 2013 1:41PM
Prius drivers around Chicago are always speeding and trying to get off the line quick.  I think they feel they have something to prove about their cars being perceived as wimpy.
Aug 13, 2013 5:19PM
Nothing better than the dirty looks I get from Prius owners when I pull along side them in my '78 Lincoln Towncar at a stop light...
Aug 13, 2013 2:34PM
Here in Chicago the very worst thing is an Asian in a Corolla in the left lane. OMG
Aug 13, 2013 1:53PM

Rich people are mostly jerks, it doesn't matter what kind of car they drive.

Aug 13, 2013 2:02PM
what I especially love in Ma. is when someone walks into the street with I-phone headphones on....does not look to see if any cars are coming( entitled to j walk) and since it is the law, cars are supposed to stop and let pedestrians cross. I wish I drove a 1964 Pontiac catalina so when I hit these idiot pedestrians who are not crossing at a crosswalk or light, their would be only minimal damage to my car whilst a teaching moment for idiot self entitled J walkers
Aug 13, 2013 6:00PM
Fact: Prius owners are 90% more likely to be driving slower than the flow of traffic in the left lane.
Aug 13, 2013 2:27PM
I have often faulted the JD Power listings for best vehicles as a rating of the self image of those rating the car and not the car. I think the more self absorbed, the more the owner is consumed with their purchase. These two vehicles plus Lexus, etc. are great examples of that. They are pleased by their self image and therefor justified in their behavior, or so they think. The rest of us just think they are selfish boors.
Aug 13, 2013 2:46PM

I sometimes drive a 1993 Corvette on the weekend.  I try to follow the rules and be polite in that car, because of the bad reputation some Corvette owners have.  Just because a person drives a higher end vehicle, does not make them jerks.  I have not even attempted to count the times I have been cut off by some POS truck!


Incidentally, I have only raced it twice.  Once against a BMW that thought he had more than he did and once against some idiot kid in a Nissan Sentra.  I gave him 3 lengths and shut him down.  Don't know what he was thinking.  Both times I felt like I had to defend the American car against some foreign make!  Well, OK, that is BS, but it was as good an excuse I could think of at the time of the events!

Aug 13, 2013 2:20PM
What do a Prius and its driver have in common?  They both get pricks in them.
Aug 13, 2013 5:03PM
Prius actually means douche in several East European languages.
Aug 13, 2013 1:55PM
Prius drivers tend to forget their car has a gas motor in it too. I should know,  I used to own one.
Aug 13, 2013 1:38PM

I'm looking for a 30 year old Toyota Landcruiser Diesel. with gas at $5.50 a gallon and diesel about 80 cents cheaper I can't afford a gas guzzler and a Prius is out of the question as it would have to shipped back  to the U.S. or elsewhere for repairs. Last  night I got so drunk I had to take a bus home, I'd never driven a bus before.

Aug 13, 2013 1:37PM
Well you know the joke about BMW's and porcupines right? Guess it's true of Prius drivers as well.
Aug 13, 2013 7:08PM
I have been a runner for 35 years, so I can watch cars and drivers at eye level.  The all time stupidest drivers are Lexus drivers.  I just want to yell at the top of my lungs,  "It's a Toyota, you dim bulb!"
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