In decades ahead, driverless cars may be the new norm in America. Recently, Tesla Motors discloses the first-known death caused by a self-driving car. In that accident, the driver put his car into Tesla’s autopilot mode. The autopilot mode is able to control the car during highway driving. The car’s sensors apparently failed to distinguish a large, white 18-wheel tractor-trailer crossing the highway. The car attempted to drive full speed under the trailer, and the bottom of the trailer impacted the windshield of the car.

A police report stated the top of the vehicle was torn off by the force of the collision. However, the truck’s driver was not injured. Tesla noted that this was the company’s first known autopilot death in approximately 130 million miles driven by its customers. Tesla further noted that within the US, among all vehicles driven, there is a fatality every 94 million miles.

With more automakers planning to release autonomous vehicles in the near future, the question we face is: will autonomous vehicle technology really make cars safer? Furthermore, will autonomous cars ultimately be safer than human operated cars? Right now, the jury is still out. The self-driving car technology is so new and is still emerging, and, as a result, the answers to those questions probably will not be evident for many more years.

Let’s look at some of the factors involved in car accidents with human drivers behind the wheel. According to a recent survey, the following is a list of top driving behaviors reported for drivers and motorcycle operators in fatal crashes in the U.S. in 2014:

  • Driving too fast 18.8%
  • Driving under the influence 12.3%
  • Failure to keep in proper lane 8.5%
  • Failure to yield right of way 6.9%
  • Distracted driving (i.e. using the phone, eating, etc.) 6.7%
  • Careless driving 4.8%
  • Overcorrecting/oversteering 4.1%
  • Failure to obey traffic signs 4.0%
  • Driving recklessly and/or negligently 3.5%
  • Swerving or avoiding 3.4%

In a future blog post, I will discuss the consequences of turning off so-called “red light cameras” at intersections in several states. I will also look at the effect that increasing speed limits has had on the number of car accidents.

If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident, please contact experience counsel immediately.