I’m like that crackhead fat guy with a drinking problem

Looking at this beauty gives me a thrill. Can you hear the deafening cognitive dissonance clanging in my head?

Tesla Model S on a California Beach

I like the cars manufactured by Tesla Motors. I admire Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, as a futurist and visionary. The engineer in me really geeks out at the technology. I really don’t object to ostentatious displays of wealth and success, either. It’s great that you’ve made it. Hurray! I also think much of the bad press that appears is unfair and feels like sour grapes.

But last Saturday’s cycling fatality in Santa Cruz County reminds us that Tesla Motor vehicles are still death machines capable of killing and maiming.

When I made the decision to call out the make of the car involved in Saturday’s cyclist fatality in Santa Cruz County, I knew I’d catch a little heat for it. I was initially undecided – should my focus instead have been on the driver’s alleged phone use? I eventually decided to headline the make of the automobile in that collision fatality.

I can appreciate Tesla Motors’ efforts to create a market that previously only appealed to people on the extreme end of the geek scale. He’s made a lower carbon footprint vehicle cool, sexy and fun. Like any conventional motor vehicle, however, Tesla cars create a hazard to anybody outside of the car. They still require significant storage space and other infrastructure to use.

Like Toronto’s beleaguered mayor Rob Ford, who says it’s “not realistic” for him to stop drinking alcohol, many cycling advocates don’t believe it’s realistic to curb our nation’s dependence on motorized vehicle travel. I still own a car (a Nissan Sentra with a 1.5ℓ engine on which I log about 5000 miles per year) eight years after I pledged to myself to go car-free, so I know how hard it is to break that addiction. My self righteousness on these matters is more than a little hypocritical. Like His Worship the Mayor of Toronto, we say we’ll curb the consumption of our favorite substances, but sometimes I wonder if technology and high efficiency might be enablers rather than a cure.

Lest you still feel like I’m picking on Tesla, this isn’t the first time I’ve highlighted the car’s make in the headline. A 12 year old kid riding his bike to school in Byron, CA was killed by a GMC Yukon. For a minor non-injury collision last February it was a Toyota in the headline. I have called out the automaker’s brand in the past, and I will continue to do so in the future.


  1. Have you seen the center console in the Model S? It is a large amount of real estate devoted distracted driving.

  2. “My self righteousness on these matters is more than a little hypocritical.” I disagree. The fact that you use a bike or transit for the trips that make sense and use your car sparingly is EXACTLY what we want people to do. It’s all about using the right tool for the job and ensuring we build our cities so the wrong tool isn’t the only one available. In too many places, 1/4 mile trips are only safe, pleasant or even possible without a car.

  3. Cars are, like guns, potentially lethal weapons to other humans when misused. We treat neither cars nor guns with the seriousness they deserve. At least people recognize guns as meant to kill and we don’t accept lame excuses for “accidents happen” when someone gets their head blown off. In contrast, we keep making excuses as to why cars “accidentally” kill. That’s bullshit. Motorists kill people because like the bozo driving the Tesla, others make light of their responsibility to drive safely.

    The guy who ran down this cyclist in complete disregard to the cyclist’s safety should be locked up for manslaughter and have his name prominently displayed for all others to see. No plea bargain, no time off for good behavior.

    I’d separate the philosophical points of our unsustainable use of cars with our unsafe use of cars. Many things we take for granted in the U.S. are not sustainable in the long haul. That includes our overuse of energy in all sectors (including housing), our excessive eating of meat, our depletion of fish resources, and our inability to control world population. Getting off of that soap box, there is the separate soap box: if we are to license people to drive privately owned motor vehicles, we should enforce the safe use thereof. We simply do not do that.

  4. Funny story – Cars kill three times as many people as guns in the US every year, and we will give 16 year olds the right to own and drive them with minimal testing. Contrast that to the “seriousness” we give to guns and it is almost laughable that we consider our roads safe at all.

  5. Also, I’m glad you didn’t focus on the alleged cell phone angle. It’s possible that the driver grabbed his phone as he exited the vehicle to call 911. The driver was obviously distracted by something or fell asleep or doing something terribly wrong. No one crosses that many lanes otherwise. But I don’t think having a phone in a hand is a smoking gun that he was texting or talking on it as I’ve seen people conjecture.

  6. Also, for the record…here is a list (SWITRS) of vehicle involved collisions for San Jose for years 2010-2011, with the designation of who was at fault. Notice how the most popular cars have the highest incident number.

    ACADIAN: N=5: Y=5
    ACURA: N=243: Y=166
    ARGOSY: N=1
    AUDI: N=34: Y=29
    AUTOCAR: N=1
    BMW: N=239: Y=165
    BUICK: N=41: Y=39
    CADILLAC: N=45: Y=38
    CHEVROLET: N=593: Y=425
    CHRYSLER: N=148: Y=95
    DAEWOO: N=3: Y=4
    DATSUN: N=1: Y=2
    DODGE: N=319: Y=272
    FORD: N=763: Y=676
    FREIGHTLINER: N=18: Y=12
    GILLIG (BUS): N=19: Y=5
    GMC: N=168: Y=107
    GOLD RUSH: N=1
    HINO: N=1: Y=1
    HONDA: N=1,333: Y=957
    HUMMER: N=2: Y=6
    HYUNDAI: N=87: Y=58
    INFINITI: N=77: Y=53
    ISUZU: N=25: Y=27
    JAGUAR: N=10: Y=17
    JEEP: N=98: Y=72
    KAWASAKI: N=24: Y=30
    KENWORTH: N=11: Y=5
    KIA: N=42: Y=31
    KTM: Y=1
    LAND ROVER: N=14: Y=9
    LEXUS: N=221: Y=142
    LINCOLN: N=37: Y=23
    MACK: N=1
    MAZDA: N=196: Y=137
    MERCEDES-BENZ: N=236: Y=112
    MERCURY: N=68: Y=55
    MINI: N=2: Y=1
    MITSUBISHI: N=111: Y=98
    NISSAN: N=395: Y=329
    OLDSMOBILE: N=33: Y=20
    OTHER – ATV: N=1: Y=1
    OTHER – AUTO: N=14: Y=13
    OTHER – BUS: N=3: Y=1
    OTHER – MOPED: N=2: Y=7
    OTHER – PICKUP: N=6: Y=4
    OTHER – TRUCK: N=4: Y=9
    PETERBILT: N=16: Y=19
    PLYMOUTH: N=27: Y=30
    PONTIAC: N=76: Y=69
    PORSCHE: N=10: Y=4
    SAAB: N=17: Y=5
    SATURN: N=70: Y=59
    SCION: N=17: Y=8
    SMART: N=1
    SUBARU: N=69: Y=28
    SUZUKI: N=48: Y=42
    THOMAS (BUS): N=3: Y=1
    TOYOTA: N=1,633: Y=1,060
    TRIUMPH: N=6: Y=1
    VESPA: Y=1
    VOLKSWAGEN: N=181: Y=122
    VOLVO: N=69: Y=49
    WHITE: N=2: Y=1
    WHITE GMC: N=1: Y=1
    YAMAHA: N=26: Y=36
    GRAND TOTAL: 13,928

  7. The media often names the make of the car if it’s expensive or unusual (BMW, Lexus, Porsche, Mercedes), but not if it’s a generic vehicle

  8. Dan the Data Guy comes through again!

    If I can ever get that TIMS tool from Safetrec working I plan to see if any particular makes are over represented in the crash data. In other words, are drivers of Audis, BMWs, and other status cars truly worse drivers? Or do we just happen to notice them more?

  9. I’ll never forget when years ago I was stuck in a traffic school class on a Saturday. The instructor was an ex-cop and his first lesson of many, was having us guess which color car got the most speeding tickets. Well red of course, followed by white…the answer was true and false depending on the year a particular color was popular. There are color trends, safety ratings, eco, resale value, etc…so, besides the vehicle…which ethnicity, gender, ages are the worse drivers? yikes!

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