Prius Rage

Why does Toyota’s humble hybrid drive some people into a rage?

Around 2005-2006, journalists started writing about "Prius rage", "Prius envy" and "hybrid hatred". According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, it started in California where the state allowed solo Prius drivers to use the High-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes usually reserved for people who carpool. On top of this was the problem of Prius drivers holding up traffic by attempting to optimise fuel economy.

But there must be more to it than this. Just looking at a hybrid seems to irritate people who suffer from Prius Rage. The problem is that people react to the world as they interpret it, not just the world as it is. And that interpretation often relies on a fair bit of imagination.

In my imagination it looks something like this. The Prius driver worries about people to looking at them and thinking: "There’s somebody who’s at least trying to do the right thing." Of course they know that if they were really prioritising the environment they wouldn’t be driving at all. So they tell themselves that even if their car isn’t the solution, it’s a step in the right direction. They’re hoping you’ll give them some credit for caring.

But the Prius Rage sufferer has a different perception. Instead of seeing someone who’s prepared to put their money where their mouth is, they see a noxious cloud of smugness and self-righteousness blocking their lane. It’s as if the Prius driver stopped their car, climbed up the roof with a megaphone and personally denounced them for vandalising the planet, starting a war in the Middle East and murdering third world babies.

Nobody likes to be called a vandal, a warmonger or a child murderer. And nobody likes to looked down on. So naturally the Prius Rage sufferer takes offense. How dare the Prius owner attack them for being a bad person. And it’s at this stage that they notice that the Prius is traveling just below the speed limit. Don’t they understand that you need to pick your kids up from child care? What’s with these people preaching at you with their overpriced cars when they should be getting a move on!

And from there, things can only escalate.

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14 years ago

haha great post. From one of your links:

Some white people decide to pull the ultimate move. Prius, Apple Sticker on the back, iPod rocking, and Democratic Candidate bumper sticker. Unstoppable!

lol. Gay marriage might have prevented the escalation in question though.