Expert Insights

Tesla Has Highest Accident Rate of Any Brand: Report

Laurance Yap
May 15, 2024
Tesla's electric cars are packed with amazing driver-assist tech. So why are they the most accident-prone vehicles? Tesla drivers, perhaps misled by the company's marketing, might be letting the cars do too much of the driving.
Man putting down a warning sign by a car

EV Brand is Most Accident Prone

In addition to their simple, economical drivetrains and smooth, swift driving experience, electric cars also offer you the latest technology. Most EVs come packed with high-tech infotainment systems as well as numerous safety systems that lean on a battery of cameras and sensors to help keep you and your family safe. Which is why it’s surprising that a new report from LendingTree shows that Tesla drivers are the most accident-prone on the road.

Researchers analyzed tens of millions of insurance quotes generated by LendingTree’s QuoteWizard tool between November 2022 and November 2023. Of the 30 car brands listed in the study, Tesla drivers were involved in ore accidents than drivers of any other brand. They had 23.54 accidents per 1,000 drivers – more than drivers of Ram trucks (22.76 accidents per 1,000 drivers) and Subaru (20.90). Every other brand listed had fewer than 20 accidents per 1,000 drivers.

Broken car window

Which Brand Has the Worst Drivers?

LendingTree also ranked Tesla (31.13 driving incidents per 1,000 drivers) as having among the worst drivers, in terms of the number of accidents, DUIs, speeding tickets, and other traffic citations. Only Ram truck owners (32.90 driving incidents per 1,000 drivers) ranked worse. Tesla’s score was primarily driven by its high accident rate, while Ram truck drivers had more speeding tickets, DUIs, and traffic citations.

The results are surprising to some, given that Tesla is seen as a technology leader, particularly in the EV space. On the other hand, the company has drawn fire from many mainstream media outlets, as well as safety organizations, for its aggressive promotion of its “full self driving” feature, which uses cameras and sensors to maintain a safe distance from the car in front, actuate the steering to keep the car within its lane, and other safety features.

Person filling out an inspection form after car damage

Tesla Full Self-Driving: A Misnomer?

Sold by other car bands using language like “adaptive cruise control,” Tesla’s “full self driving” is actually a driving assist feature, and legally, drivers are still required to be paying attention to the task at hand, and control the vehicle when needed. Unfortunately, there have been a number of reported accidents where Tesla drivers were literally asleep at the wheel, or otherwise distracted. Those critical of Tesla say the company’s language misrepresented the capabilities of the car, and lulled drivers into thinking they could focus on things other than driving while their vehicles took control.

Indeed, such is the magnitude of the problem that Tesla is recalling nearly 2 million vehicles to update the Autosteer function of its Autopilot software – nearly every vehicle it has sold in the United States. In a statement, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says, "in certain circumstances when Autosteer is engaged, the prominence and scope of the feature's controls may not be sufficient to prevent driver misuse” of the driver-assistance features.

The recall, which will largely be handled through over-the-air software, will update the system to ensure drivers continue to pay attention while using the Autopilot feature, warning drivers that they can’t let the vehicle take over while they attend to other tasks, or take a nap. The driver must continue to be prepared to take control of the vehicle if an issue arises that it can’t adequately respond to. Some critics say the recall doesn’t go far enough: while most other manufacturers limit the use of their automated driver assists to controlled-access highways at higher speeds, Tesla owners can activate Autopilot in town, on roads that have cross traffic.

Driver assistance features

Fully Automated Driving Isn’t Here Yet

What’s interesting to see in LendingTree’s data, and the NHTSA recall, is that Tesla’s technology isn’t to blame – the driver-assist features fitted to most Tesla vehicles are as good as those fitted in other brands of vehicles. It’s that Tesla drivers, perhaps convinced by the company’s marketing, are leaning too much on the tech, and using it in situations where they ought to be paying more attention. As good as the tech in any EV gets, ultimately, fully automated driving isn’t here yet; and until then, we need to continue to be alert at the wheel.