Cyclist killed by Tesla in Santa Cruz County

Update: Cyclist identified as Josh Alper of Santa Cruz. He was a librarian at UC Santa Cruz with a love for music and comedy. My condolences to his friends and loved ones.

A 40 year old Santa Cruz resident was killed after he was hit in a head on collision with a Tesla Model S on Saturday morning. The man was cycling with a small group on Highway 1 west of Santa Cruz, California.

Vcitim's bike Santa Cruz Highway 1 November 2 2013

The driver of the Tesla was driving southbound on Highway 1 near Dimeo Lane when he crossed the centerline and into the northbound shoulder, where he collided with the cyclist at high speed.

Highway 1 was briefly closed for investigation, and the Tesla electric car was towed away as evidence.

According to this news report from KSBW, the 60 year old driver of the Tesla was on his phone when he swerved into oncoming traffic. He swerved up the dirt embankment on the wrong side of the highway, then steered back to the northbound shoulder where he collided with the man on the bike, who was thrown up and over the hood and through the windshield on the passenger side of the car.

This is the second cyclist fatality in Santa Cruz County for 2013 and the first on Highway 1 since Joshua Laven was killed near Davenport, CA on May 5, 2012. The craven oxygen thief who cowardly left Laven to die on the side of the highway has never been identified.

Both Highway 1 of these recent cycling fatalities were roadway departure fatalities. In early 2012, Caltrans identified roadway departure accidents as a particular hazard on Highway 1 between Santa Cruz and the San Mateo County Line. The Santa Cruz Cycling Club registered their strong opposition to rumble strips of any kind, including centerline rumble strips and edgeline rumble strips modified to reduce the hazard and inconvenience to cyclists that have historically been associated with more traditional rumble strips.



  1. Cell phones are now the primary cause of car accidents, passing up impaired driving, reckless driving, etc. Its time to ban cell phone use of any kind for drivers. Partial solutions are not working. Cell phones need to be set to not allow placing or receiving texts or calls while driving, hands free or not. There is no other way. This can all be automated for modern cars with bluetooth. The car can automatically disable the phone while the engine is on. Law needs to have teeth.

  2. Recently read a really good piece by a fellow cycling blogger that talked about the importance of headlines:

    “Cyclist killed by Tesla”

    This makes me think think that somehow the company Tesla, killed a cyclist. Like it was a corporate plot to kill a cyclist. I can’t help but read this and think of negative implications for Tesla.

    The more dangerous part of this headline is that it also forgives the driver:

    “I didn’t kill the person, the bullet did.”

    It was not the Tesla that killed the person, but the driver.

    “Cyclist killed by Tesla driver”

    Would be more accurate.

    Also just did some googling and came across:

  3. Semi-related: in the video, the Tesla had a rear plate that wasn’t issued by California that reads “zero emissions.” Why don’t cars simply disable cell phones whenever the car is in gear? Lots simpler than locking tops on booze.

  4. Andreas, I wrote that story in trehugger and in this case I think the car brand is relevant . It is the safest car ever made- for the driver. It is the smartest car on the road. Musk could tweak the software to make using a phone impossible but I bet he won’t.

  5. This cyclist worked with a friend of mine, and I met him a few times. What a terrible loss for his wife, family, friends, and community. So so sorry to hear about this tragedy.

  6. The comments relating this in any way to Tesla are erroneous, at best. The car, itself, was in no way related to the tragedy – the same thing could (and does!) happen with the driver of a Ford, GM, Toyota or any other brand.
    As for Tesla changing their software to disable phones while in motion, that’s a non-starter. For one dashboard-integrated phones with handsfree operation are way safer than handheld phones (after all the law in California is _hands free_), and all Teslas come with that support (as do many other cars nowadays).
    If Tesla (or BMW, or Ford, or Chrysler, or GM, or…) did disable the phone controls while driving this would have the effect of drivers simply not linking their phone to the car, so it didn’t use the Bluetooth features _at all_. Yeah, that’ll help.

  7. In fact studies show that hands free is just as distracting as holding the phone. Its not the holding of the phone that is distracting, but having the conversation. It would be much safer to hold the phone and not use it, than it would be to have a conversation using hands free. The law needs to be changed. No cell phone use at all while driving, with stiff penalties for violators. Vehicles in the near future will be loaded with computers and electronics, so can easily monitor this and report offenders automatically.

  8. Here is a good link to do some relevant research…


    CHP (SWITRS) have been “trying” to “properly” collect this information (over 10 years) when a traffic incident is reported, but its subjective using mostly the honor system. The only true way of determining its use, is through follow-up investigations, which rarely happens unless a lawsuit is involved, etc. and then, I’m not sure the official SWITRS records get updated, if determined otherwise.

    I just ran a report to list out the incidents with cell phone use for San Jose which is a good (large city) sampling.

    Below are the results from 2010 / 2011 for a total of 15,720 records. You can see they are almost identical…coincidence or fact?


    2010 TOTAL = 7,836…

    No Cell Phone/Unknown = 8

    Cell Phone Hands Free in Use = 16

    Cell Phone Handheld in Use = 27

    Cell Phone Not in Use = 3,144

    Not Stated = 4,641


    2011 TOTAL = 7,884…

    No Cell Phone/Unknown = 4

    Cell Phone Handheld in Use = 18

    Cell Phone Hands Free in Use = 20

    Cell Phone Not in Use = 3,219

    Not Stated = 4,623


    TOTAL COMBINED = 15,720…

    No Cell Phone/Unknown = 12

    Cell Phone Hands Free in Use = 36

    Cell Phone Handheld in Use = 45

    Cell Phone Not in Use = 6,363

    Not Stated = 9,264

  9. Bike Scoot really got it right here. Studies show that using a cellphone while driving is as impairing as drunk driving and hands free DOES NOT REDUCE THIS RISK. Many drivers now think it is okay to text while driving, because magically typing out a message one character at a time is less distracting than keeping your eyes on the road while talking.

    Speaking as a victim of a cellphone related crash I take this very seriously. My friends and I were standing on a sidewalk when some asshat 18 year old drops his phone while driving, bends over to pick it up, then in a panic rev’s his 4 ton Chevy pick up into a group of 5 highschool kids. Thankfully only one of us was actually hit by the car, the others scattered in time, and even my friend who was hit turned out okay (after a major concussion and almost fractured pelvis). This was before the hands free law was passed, I really don’t feel much safer after the passage of the law due to poor enforcement and the fact that it is a slap on the wrist.

    I say you get a point on your license for cellphone driving and a $300 fine, raise the penalty. Texting should get an even bigger penalty. Gauge penalties to their risk not a drivers convenience.

  10. Cyclelicious: Please explain why it is the cyclists’ fault for not embracing dangerous rumble strips. The news today indicates that the driver says he fell asleep.

  11. I, for one, am not buying the falling asleep excuse, 11:15 am was the driver up all night. Maybe the “blackbox” will tell the real story or at least part of it?

  12. just came across this…
    More than 57,000 drivers were ticketed for handheld cell phone talking or texting during April’s Distracted Driving Awareness Month, according to the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) and the California Highway Patrol (CHP). The citations were written by CHP officers as well as over 250 local law enforcement agencies across the state match the number handed to drivers in last year’s April campaign. The monthly number of cell phone tickets outside of this special high visibility enforcement averages 36,000 violations. Over 3,500 citations were handed out for other types of distracted driving violations.

    The Office of Traffic Safety also announced today that the percentage of drivers actively using cell phones at any one time in the state dropped from 10.8 percent in 2012 to 7.4 percent in 2013, nearly returning to the baseline 2011 total of 7.3 percent……..

  13. I believe there is a coverup going on, while they pick a “plausible” story to go with. I think I saw the same black Tesla Friday, coming to SC over the hill… but it was driven by a different driver, same paper plate, Zero emissions… but it could have been just another “new” Tesla without perm. plates… Makes no difference, the negligent driver should be named…Seems odd to withhold… and how can they definitively say no drugs or alcohol were involved… so early ???

  14. guess we’ll see how our most excellent investigators will handle this one…NY seems to have finally gotten it right…
    “In a marked shift of protocol, the New York Police Department has begun conducting robust investigations of traffic crashes that result in critical injuries but not certain or likely death. In the past, investigators from a specialized unit, the Accident Investigation Squad, were sent only when at least one victim had died or was deemed by first responders to be “likely to die.”

  15. Josh had made his way into the NYTimes it seems. The Times just ran an article about how it is okay to kill cyclists.

    According to the executive director of the SF Bike Coalition, “We do not know of a single case of a cyclist fatality in which the driver was prosecuted, except for D.U.I. or hit-and-run.” Kind of a scary thought that there is no legal protection for you even if you die.

    The problem seems to be that “jurors identify with drivers,” perhaps the way to change that is to get them to identify with cyclists more.

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