Self-driving cars are still a novel sight in many California towns, but they are positioned to become prevalent on American roads. The Verge reports that a House subcommittee is marking up a package of legislation related to autonomous vehicles. This seemingly standard procedure is part of a larger national discussion on vehicle safety. Yet, with nearly ninety-four percent of accidents being caused by driver error, it is difficult to say that self-driving cars are the more dangerous option.
When a victim is injured in a car accident - whether due to driver error or malfunction of an autonomous vehicle - he or she has legal rights which must be protected. An experienced San Clemente car accident attorney can help injury victims secure the legal compensation to which they are entitled.
Why Fears of Self-Driving Car Accidents Are Misplaced
Opponents of self-driving cars have expressed many safety concerns about self-driving cars. Such fears seemed to be validated when a self-driving Uber vehicle crashed in Tempe, Arizona on March 24, 2017. But was this accident the fault of the self-driving vehicle?
According to Wired, the autonomous Uber vehicle was approaching an intersection when the light changed from green to yellow. In response, the automated system accelerated the vehicle. A driver in the opposite direction was waiting to make a left turn across oncoming traffic. When the light changed to yellow, she assumed that oncoming traffic would stop, and began to make her left turn. The left-turning driver then collided with the self-driving Uber vehicle as it accelerated through the yellow light at the intersection. Witnesses gave differing accounts of the accident. One said the left turn driver struck the Uber, while another claimed that she was in the right, and the Uber was at fault for trying to “beat the light”.
In spite of the witness reports, the Arizona left-turn statute, A.R.S. 28-772, is clear: a vehicle turning left must yield to any oncoming vehicle. If a vehicle accident involved any left turn, the driver attempting the turn is at fault for the accident. In the case of the autonomous Uber, the left-turning driver was legally at fault. Of course, the fact that the self-driving Uber was not legally responsible for the Arizona accident does not allay public safety concerns. But it is important to remember that this vehicle did exactly what it was supposed to do. The facts of this accident do not uncover any new or disturbing information about self-driving technology. On the contrary, they demonstrate that the technology works exactly as it is supposed to.
There is no substitute for attentive, defensive driving. Regardless of the legal status of self-driving cars, human drivers must do their part to eliminate the ninety-four percent of accidents which are caused by human error. Accept personal responsibility for eliminating distractions in the vehicle, such as navigation and entertainment systems, and the ever-present smartphone. Slow down when conditions demand it. Anticipate and be prepared to react to other driver’s movements. Do your part to make sure the roads of San Clemente are safe for everyone.