Statement on National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Investigation of Tesla Crashes

  • August 16, 2021
150 150 Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety
CONTACT: Pete Daniels / / 301-442-2249 (C)


Statement of Cathy Chase, President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates), On National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Investigation of Tesla Crashes


Auto safety agency’s investigative actions are commendable.  They also highlight the need for minimum performance standards for vehicles with automated driving technology to protect first responders and all road users.


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today took the necessary step of announcing a formal investigation of Tesla vehicles involved in crashes with first responder vehicles.  In all cases, Autopilot or Traffic Aware Cruise Control was engaged just prior to the crash.

In addition to this investigation, minimum performance standards to prevent vehicles with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) from colliding with roadside emergency scenes are needed.  The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has consistently recommended vehicles be equipped with collision avoidance systems, including on the 2021 – 2022 Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements.

The INVEST in America Act (H.R. 3684), which was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives with bipartisan support on July 1, 2021, includes requirements for the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) to issue safety standards for ADAS including automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane departure warning (LDW), and blind spot warning (BSW).  It also requires the safety technologies to be included as standard equipment in new cars by four years after enactment.  Advocates thanks Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL) for sponsoring the Protecting Roadside First Responders Act (S. 1386/H.R. 2867) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) for sponsoring the 21st Century Smart Cars Act (H.R. 3628), bills that also address these vital safety technology upgrades.  Additionally, the INVEST in America Act would move the ball forward on standards and requirements for driver monitoring technology, which is critical to prevent drivers from over-reliance on automated driving features such as those found in Tesla vehicles.  Advocates commends lawmakers who have sponsored stand-alone bills to achieve this safety priority: Sens. Ed Markey (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), sponsors of the Stay Aware for Everyone Act (S. 1406); Sens. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) and Rick Scott (R-FL) and Reps. Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Kathleen Rice (D-NY) and David McKinley (R-WV), sponsors of the RIDE Act and HALT Drunk Driving Act (S. 1331/H.R. 2138).  Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) joined by consumer, public health, safety, labor, bicyclist and insurance organizations and traffic crash victim advocates, lauded the House’s passage of these comprehensive advances.  Unfortunately, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, passed by the U.S. Senate on August 10, includes provisions that would delay progress on these commonsense safety measures.

Today’s action taken by NHTSA as well as the June 29, 2021 standing order to require auto manufacturers and operators of vehicles equipped with ADAS, which are rated as Level 2 per the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and vehicles with more sophisticated automated driving system capability (SAE Levels 3 – 5), to report crashes are steps in the right direction.  As the legislative process for the infrastructure package and reconciliation continues, we urge the Biden Administration and Congress to move forward with the safety advances in the INVEST in America Act.  Without essential action to curb current trends, over the five-year span of the legislation, nearly 200,000 people will be killed and 14 million more injured in motor vehicle crashes.  Proven solutions can prevent these tragedies.


Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety is an alliance of consumer, medical, public health, law enforcement, and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working together to improve road safety in the U.S.  Advocates’ mission is the adoption of federal and state laws, policies and programs that prevent motor vehicle crashes, save lives, reduce injuries, and contain costs.