The New York Times reported a tragic story. A family lost their child in a horrific accident in 2019 and they are now suing Tesla. The New York Times reported that Benjamin Maldonado and his 15-year-old son were driving back from a soccer tournament in August 2019. Maldonado turned his turn signal on and moved right. Just after, the driver of a Tesla Model 3 traveling around 60 miles per hour on Autopilot slammed into him.
The article noted that a six-second video captured by the Model 3 and the data recorded showed that neither Autopilot nor the driver slowed the vehicle until just before the crash. Instead of pressing charges on the driver, the family is suing Tesla. It should be noted that the teen wasn’t wearing his seatbelt, which is not only against the law, but had he been wearing one, it might have kept him from being thrown from the vehicle — which killed him.
Tesla’s Part In This.
Tesla specifically states on its website regarding Autopilot: “Current Autopilot features require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous.”
I don’t think Tesla is in the wrong, but I do think that Tesla can do more to help prevent the misuse of its products. Although, it’s not Tesla’s responsibility to monitor people. Gunmakers don’t stop mass murders from buying guns and going on killing sprees, so why should Tesla be at fault for what someone does with its product? However, Tesla would stand to benefit from taking a proactive role in prevention. That’s just my opinion on the matter, and since Tesla has quite a few brilliant engineers, I’m sure they probably are working on more and more safety solutions.
A Child’s Life Was Lost Due To Negligence Of Both Parties.
I don’t mean to sound harsh or critical here, but we can not overlook the fact that the teen wasn’t wearing his seatbelt. According to the California Vehicle Code 27315VC, California seat belt law requires all occupants of a moving motor vehicle 8 years of age and older to wear a safety belt. The parent was responsible for ensuring that his son was safely belted in.
As for the other driver, they should have been paying attention even if the vehicle was on Autopilot. This death and the accident could have been prevented if the driver had been paying attention and slowed down.
Blaming Tesla Is Easier Than Taking Responsibility For One’s Own Actions.
Keep in mind, this family lost their child and they are most likely being told that Tesla is responsible for their child’s death. These negative headlines about Teslas on Autopilot killing people are very convincing to those who don’t understand the technology or how it works. So when you have someone who is grieving mixed in with a potential “bad guy,” it’s reasonable that the family would want to sue Tesla instead of facing the fact that they had a hand in their own child’s death.
Did the father want his son to die? No, of course not. However, his inaction regarding wearing a seatbelt led to this preventable death. And, sadly, these accidents are all too common. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration stated that in 2019, 47% of the 22,215 passenger vehicle occupants killed were not wearing seatbelts. Sadly, this teen is part of that statistic. Seat belts saved around 14,955 lives in 2017 and could have saved over 2,500 more if they had just been wearing their seatbelts.
Tesla Isn’t At Fault Here.
Tesla isn’t at fault here. You don’t sue gunmakers when a nutjob goes and shoots up a college or church. Instead, the shooter is to blame.
In the case of Tesla, again, I think Tesla would benefit from taking a more proactive approach about properly using Autopilot and perhaps penalizing those who are misusing the feature. That may sound harsh, but when you are operating a vehicle, you’re operating something that could take someone’s life if you’re not careful for even one second. And there are too many of these senseless accidents where the driver isn’t paying attention.
Still, in normal cases, the driver is at fault. But with Tesla, it’s always “the car’s fault” and not the driver’s. This is why I think Tesla should take a proactive stance here — to protect itself from the consequences of idiot drivers who don’t care to pay attention.
Sad situations happen all the time — most are preventable. Tesla’s focus is on safety, but once the vehicle ownership is transferred to the driver, the driver’s fully responsible for their actions while using the vehicle.