8:19:13 The Worst Car Driver & Why

For many years, the hands-down worst car drivers were to be found behind the steering wheel of a Volvo sedan or station wagon. Granted any "worst driver" categorization is freighted with prejudice (Who is to say all Volvo drivers are heavy handicaps once they leave the driveway?). Did we have exhaustive black-box data for every automotive mishap and embarrassment that definitively shows Volvo drivers are the lowest of the low ... ). No, but we live in such a car-centric times where "We are what we drive" that generalizing about categories of drivers is fair game.

In recent years, however, a new contender for "worst driver" has come on the scene. Wrestling the crown for oblivious, inattentive, imcompetent driving from the Volvophiles--who bought the Swedish marque for its reputed armored-tank "crash-ability"--is that eco-icon: the Save-the-Planet Prius!

It's more than my personal experience (Though I could mention, while recently walking across the street in a pedestrian crosswalk with the WALK signal, an oblivious Prius driver nearly ran over my toes, but that is only one anecdote). Type "worst driver" into your search engine of choice. Prius comes up with alarming frequency. Why?

[Master Smug]

I thought at one time it was the Buck Rogers Multi-Information Display on the dashboard giving Fuel Consumption History, Average Fuel Economy, Distance to Empty ... distracting the Priusites from the real business of not hitting other cars and human beings. (Note: Toyota now offers a Head-Up-Display option, projecting this information on the windshield, making it easier for Prius drivers to keep their eyes on the road!)

But I've concluded something else is at play. Might be a bit of smugness. (As in, Save the planet, but trade smog for smug.)

Yes, I think smugness is a likely culprit. The technical term for what is happening is "moral credentialing." Academic studies show where people under controlled conditions engage in some egalitarian behavior (as driving a car that pollutes less and benefits everybody, all for the greater good), these do-gooders will distressingly turn around and do less egalitarian behaviors, once they have the moral credentials for their good behavior in hand. So apparently the mere ownership of a Prius--representing some cloak of virtue--empowers its driver with the moral cred to do bad in other ways.

To wit, driving their Prius over my toes in a pedestrian crosswalk!

Or as one comic put it, It's hard to drive a Prius when you're patting yourself on the back.

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The Cat at Light's End

Read Charlie Dickinson's story collection, The Cat at Light's End, as an ebook in these downloadable formats:

.mobi (Kindle)
.epub (most other readers)
.pdf (for PCs)

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