No matter how hard parents try to keep their kids safe, teenagers like to push boundaries. It’s always been that way and is highly unlikely to ever change. The job of a parent is also to encourage their kids to try new things and reach for their dreams. Unfortunately, when that dream involves risking life and limb for social media fame, it may not be the best time to empower your son or daughter.
A TikTok video went viral when a teen’s mother assisted her son’s troubling stunt using Tesla’s autopilot driving feature by riding with him and filming his activities inside the vehicle. The boy rigged the car to drive without anyone being at the wheel and able to react in an emergency, putting everyone on the road at risk for a car accident.
Misuse of autopilot for shock value creates risks
You simply don’t expect to drive down the highway, peer over and see someone cuddled up sleeping in the driver’s seat or back seat like they’re at home in bed. Aside from the risks that come from the careless act itself, the rubberneckers can cause accidents, too. These are immediate concerns.
But the damage is also long-term, especially because no one was hurt in this stupid prank. Posting these videos on TikTok only glamorizes the notion that nothing bad happened to this teenager, which will make other drivers more prone to give it a go. When you have several drivers completely disengaged from their responsibilities behind the wheel, the end result will likely be a fatal crash.
It won’t be the first, either. A Tesla in Palm Beach, Florida crashed in 2019, killing the driver who took his hands off the wheel for just 10 seconds. To date, there have been 164 deaths involving Tesla accidents, of which 15 are claimed to have been related to autopilot.
Tesla knows its own autopilot system (ADAS) well enough to realize it has not yet reached the mile marker for complete safety when self-driven 100% of the time. That’s why the automaker has a very precise safety rule for operating their autonomous vehicles: Hands are still required to be on the steering wheel when autopilot is engaged. Drivers are finding ways around the ADAS to drive totally hands free by using everything from water bottles wedged into the steering wheel to rubber bands like the sleeping TikTok teen.
You don’t have to be a genius to understand that violating Tesla’s golden rule of safety is, in a word, reckless. Negligent behavior is often something that happens erroneously because someone wasn’t paying proper attention to what he or she was doing and unintentionally caused someone to get hurt. In this case, it’s not a far leap to foresee that intentionally avoiding all safety instructions will lead to a car accident and the fact that one didn’t happen in this instance is pure luck.
Breaking the law can hinder your personal injury case
You can’t willingly violate motor vehicle laws and then collect when you get hurt if your actions substantially contributed to the accident. North Dakota operates under the modified comparative negligence rule. That means if you and another driver both share some of the blame for the collision, recovering from the other driver for your injuries may prove to be very difficult.
Under North Dakota Century Code § 32-03.2-02, drivers who are at least 50% at fault for an accident cannot collect from the other driver for personal injury. What can be tougher to wrap your mind around is that, if you are found to be more than 50% at fault, you may very well be the one paying out a settlement to the other driver, even if your injuries are worse.
In the case of this teenaged driver, he has not only documented himself breaking the law and creating a danger on the roadways through numerous videos, but he’s been reported to law enforcement and Tesla. When he causes an accident, the repeated improper use of his autonomous vehicle is certain to work against him.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of a reckless driver, you need a law firm that will put everything it has into protecting your future. The Minot car accident injury lawyers at Larson Law Firm, P.C. will stand by your side every step of the way from monitoring your recovery progress through obtaining a fair insurance settlement or financial award at trial. You have a right to get your life back. Start by calling 701-484-HURT to schedule your free consultation in our Minot or Bismarck offices, or we invite you to reach out to us through our contact page.
Mark Larson is a Certified Civil Trial Specialist and Certified Civil Pre-Trial Specialist focusing on personal injury, motor vehicle, wrongful death, and oil field claims. Since 1979, Larson Law Firm has served the injured throughout North Dakota. Read more about Mark V. Larson