Tragic Death of Teenage Boy With a Tesla Could Have Been Avoided
According to Yahoo News, there was an accident between a Tesla Model 3 and a truck with a teenage boy in it. The teenage boy was ejected from the passenger seat and was killed. This is a very sad and tragic event. I have two daughters and I can't imagine one of them passing away. This accident took place on August 24, 2019.
I am sharing the video so you can also draw your own conclusion about what happened and I will also share my opinion on the situation.
What Is Being Reported About the Accident
Yahoo (and other news sources) are reporting that the family of the teenage boy killed in their trucks collision with the Tesla Model 3 are suing Tesla due to the Model 3 having autopilot engaged and claiming that autopilot is to blame for the collision.
The news is also reporting that the teenage boy was not wearing a seatbelt, which caused him to be ejected from the vehicle. I will quote the Yahoo news article:
"The teenager, who was not wearing a seat belt, was found lying face down on the interstate. His father, according to footage of the incident, had flashed his lights four times at the Tesla."
Why the Accident Happened
I have watched the video many times and here is my account of what happened:
Traffic was fairly congested and dense. Cars and vehicles were all around.
The driver of the Tesla Model 3 had their dash cam on and was driving at freeway speeds - with the flow of traffic.
Ahead of the driver and ahead of a white car in the lane to the left, is a truck.
The truck puts on its right turn signal and very soon after - what seems less than half a second, moves into the next right lane, ahead of the Tesla Model 3.
The turn signal of the truck blinks 4 times. On the second blink, it is moving into the right lane next to it.
The truck as it moves into the right lane appears to be slowing down, or the Tesla Model 3 is speeding up. The Tesla Model 3 passes the white car on the left. The gap between the truck and the Tesla Model 3 quickly closes.
The two vehicles quickly close in on each other and the truck hits its breaks and tries to go back into the left lane. The Tesla Model 3 vehicle does not appear to slow down at all.
The Tesla Model 3 collides with the truck, causing the aforementioned accident.
What Could have Prevented the Accident
My heart aches for the family of the teenage boy who was killed in this accident. Death of loved ones is incredibly difficult. I lost my mom in 2018 and my youngest sister at the end of 2020. It's not easy...
In this case, I feel the accident could have been easily prevented by both parties. In this case, I feel both parties made mistakes and I'm going to address those now.
The truck put on its turn signal and immediately started moving into the right lane in congested traffic. The more traffic around, the riskier it is to change lanes and move around.
Whenever I am driving in traffic and am about to change lanes, I always put on my blinker, signaling my intent, and then look to see if it's safe to move into the next lane. If there are any cars coming up in the lane I want to go in, or two lanes over from where I want to change lanes, I abort the lane change. It does not matter if I need to make an exit or will lose time, I won't make the lane change unless it's clearly safe.
The reason I abort the lane change in this case is because I drive very defensively and assume others aren't going to make it safe for me to change lanes. I'll only change lanes if I see I can do so within the flow of traffic and with the lowest possible chance of another car also trying to merge in the lane or speed up from behind.
Also, the truck hit its breaks after changing into the lane and tried to swerve back to the left. What the truck driver should have done instead is after moving into the right lane, kept its speed with the flow of traffic in order to avoid being rear ended by the Tesla Model 3 and also honking its horn seeing it speed up behind it.
Finally, the teenage boy should have been wearing a seat belt. This would probably have avoided him being ejected form the truck.
Now, for the Tesla Model 3 driver - they are also at fault here. Whenever you are driving, you have to assume that others are going to make lane changes in front of you. I wouldn't be surprised if the Tesla Model 3 driver was distracted here in some way, either with texting or something else.
The driver of the Tesla Model 3 should have disengaged autopilot and simply hit the breaks to slow down and avoid hitting the truck. Even if the truck still slammed on its breaks like it did, the impact would have been substantially less.
The driver of the Tesla Model 3 is ultimately the one at fault here, I believe, because they did not slow down for the truck that moved into the lane in front of them. But both drivers could have easily avoided this collision with just a little more care and attention along with defensive driving.
Tesla has a number of safety features that I believe will prevent accidents like this in the future.
Is Tesla at Fault?
I don't see Tesla being at fault here. Tesla clearly states that someone using Tesla Autopilot must be engaged at all times and ready to take over at any moment. This clearly did not happen with the driver of the Model 3 here.
What do you think about this accident? Could it have been avoided based on what I've said? Who is at fault here? Is it Tesla or the driver of the Tesla, or the driver of the truck?
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Jeremy Johnson is a Tesla investor and supporter. He first invested in Tesla in 2017 after years of following Elon Musk and admiring his work ethic and intelligence. Since then, he's become a Tesla bull, covering anything about Tesla he can find, while also dabbling in other electric vehicle companies. Jeremy covers Tesla developments at Torque News. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram to stay in touch and follow his Tesla news coverage on Torque News.