Distracted driving is a huge safety concern for drivers in Washington. In fact, the state has made great strides in reducing the number of accidents and fatalities caused by driver distraction in recent years.
Tesla’s Gaming Console Raises Concerns
With so many of our citizens concerned about environmental issues such as global warming, it’s no surprise that Washington is a leader among states whose drivers opt for zero emission vehicles. Despite being the 13th largest state in the union, Washington ranks fourth in the total number of electric vehicles on the road.
The overwhelming leader in electric vehicles in the US is Tesla, controlling almost 80 percent of the market. And although the company is very popular for its innovative spirit, recent revelations that Tesla cars featured a console that drivers could use to play video games while they were driving raised issues about how this might impact distracted driving.
Distracted Driving—A Big Problem in Washington
Common causes of distracted driving include texting and talking on the phone, eating, changing the radio, and shaving or applying makeup. In 2017 Washington passed the Driving under the Influence of Electronics Act, a law that enacted harsh penalties for distracted driving, including a $136 fine for a first offense and a $234 fine for second offenses. The law was a response to the high number of accidents and fatalities caused by driver distraction across the state.
This crisis peaked in 2015 when 31 percent of traffic fatalities in Washington were linked to distracted driving. Since 2015, the number of people killed each year by distracted drivers has decreased by over 25 percent – but Washington still has the fourth highest rate of distracted driver-related fatalities of any state in the nation!
Driving and Playing Video Games Don’t Mix
Tesla features all sorts of cutting-edge technology, including a driver navigation system with an impressive screen that lets the driver control their wiper blades and use a blind spot camera. These features clearly enhance vehicle safety. Unfortunately, Tesla was also enabling drivers to access games while the vehicle was in use.
In many ways, Tesla portrays itself as a renegade company, reflecting the personality of its CEO Elon Musk. The company has allowed video games to be played in the front seat of its cars for years, and a software update in the summer of 2021 enabled certain video games to be played by the driver even when the car was moving.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with Tesla drivers playing video games in their car when it’s parked. But playing video games while you drive causes all three types of distracted driving, visual, cognitive, and manual.
Of course, entertainment consoles have been a major feature of luxury vehicles for years. They’re a great way to keep kids and other passengers entertained during long road trips. For example, the 2022 Jeep Cherokee features two screens in the back and one for the front seat passenger, but according to Car and Driver, “you can’t see a single lit-up pixel from the driver’s position.”
Tesla Forced to Eliminate This Controversial Feature
In December of 2021, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a statement informing the public that the Vehicle Safety Act prohibits manufacturers from selling vehicles with design defects that pose unreasonable risks to public safety, but Tesla did not respond publicly to the announcement. The agency also opened an investigation against
Tesla. Shortly thereafter, NHTSA spokesperson Lucia Sanchez said that Tesla’s Passenger Play software update will be locked by the company to prevent anyone in the front seat from playing video games while the car is in motion.
Mercedes Benz also had an issue with allowing in-motion video games that were usable from the driver’s console, but this only occurred in about 200 vehicles. In sharp contrast to Tesla, the German automaker quickly issued a recall when they discovered that an “incorrect configuration” of their infotainment system made it possible for drivers of some Mercedes Benz automobiles to play video games while the cars were moving.
Were You Injured by a Distracted Driver?
At Pendergast Law, we know how to investigate accidents to help victims get the best possible settlements from insurance companies. If you were injured in an accident caused by a distracted driver, call our office today at 888-539-9211 for a FREE consultation. We’re on your side.