We’ve all seen the videos as they splash across screens in local and national newscasts showing a Tesla driver asleep at the wheel while the car drives itself on Autopilot. The next time we see one (because there will be a next time), here are some statistics to share to show that a driver asleep behind the wheel of a Tesla is safer than being asleep behind the wheel of any other vehicle on the road.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US, drivers falling asleep behind the wheel is a major problem. Even being drowsy, and not actually falling asleep behind the wheel, is just as dangerous as you are unable to react as quickly, reduces your attention to the road, and reduces your ability to make good decisions while driving.
In a study from 2013, 1 in 25 adult (18+ yrs old) drivers surveyed were found to have fallen asleep behind the wheel in just the previous 30 days. Additionally, it is estimated by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that drowsy driving (both falling asleep and being drowsy) results in 72,000 crashes, 44,000 injuries, and over 800 death annually. These estimates are considered to be conservative, as there is no way to know if a driver falls asleep, as they rely on drivers admitting to it. It is estimated that up to 6,000 fatalities could occur each year caused by drowsy drivers.
In the cases of Tesla drivers falling asleep behind the wheel, the drivers have bypassed the safety features to detect and ensure the driver is alert and has their hands on the wheel. If you do not trick the system and fall asleep while Autopilot is engaged, you will be awakened by the loud beeps and alerts as your vehicle realizes your hands are not on the wheel. It will slowly and safely come to a complete stop and pull over to the side of the road.
Compare that to a regular vehicle, where if you fall asleep behind the wheel, the results will almost always be disastrous, endangering the lives of other drivers around you. So the next time someone talks to you about Tesla drivers being irresponsible by falling asleep behind the wheel while on Autopilot, you can remind them of these statistics and how Autopilot greatly reduces the risks of injury and death in these situations.