Tesla drivers are young, well-educated .... and accident prone, research shows

Tesla drivers are young and highly educated

Published: January 1, 2024 11:12pm

Updated: January 1, 2024 11:13pm

Tesla owners have a bad reputation — and for good reason.

According to a new report by researchers at LendingTree, of all the drivers on the road, those behind the wheels of Teslas tend to have the most accidents. 

Could youth and road-based naïveté be playing a role? After all, approximately 70 percent of Tesla drivers are 34 years old or younger. In other words, a typical Tesla driver is either a member of the Gen Z or Millennial generations. Additionally, they tend to be highly educated, with one-third of all Tesla drivers in the U.S. holding either a master's degree or a PhD.

The average Tesla driver might be book smart, but they’re not necessarily street smart.

As the report notes, last year, Tesla drivers exhibited the highest accident rate among all car brands. Specifically, they experienced 23.54 accidents per 1,000 drivers. In comparison, Ram and Subaru were the only other brands that surpassed the 20 accidents per 1,000 drivers threshold, with rates of 22.76 and 20.90 respectively. On the other hand, Pontiac, Mercury, and Saturn were the three brands that recorded accident rates below 10 accidents per 1,000 drivers, with figures of 8.41, 8.96, and 9.13 respectively.

The authors said "it’s hard to nail down why certain brands may have higher accident rates than others. However, there are indications that certain types of vehicles attract riskier drivers than others.”

When it comes to Tesla, they suggest that the speed of the cars may play a role in the high number of accidents. Tesla produces several vehicles known for their performance, the report noted. In fact, out of “the 10 fastest electric cars,” on U.S. roads, four are made by the Elon Musk-owned brand.

Moreover, younger drivers tend to be more distracted drivers. As this report by Aceable notes, Millennial and Gen Z drivers, in particular, tend to exhibit dangerous driving behaviors due to the distraction caused by cell phones. Rather shockingly, “Millennials and Gen Z are 32% more likely than older generations to blame their heightened distraction behind the wheel to their phones.”

Tesla’s ‘Autopilot’ option also appears to be playing a role. As The New York Times reported last year, Autopilot has played a direct role in a number of fatal crashes on U.S. roads, “in some cases because drivers were not prepared to take control of the car.” Once you combine the speed of Teslas, the distracted nature of the average Tesla driver, and an unjust faith in the Autopilot feature, you are left with a recipe for unmitigated disaster.

Tesla did not respond to a request for comment.

But Tesla drivers aren’t the only ones with a questionable reputation. The LendingTree report also takes a statistical swipe at BMW drivers, many of whom appear to enjoy a drink or two.

BMW drivers have a significantly higher DUI rate compared to other drivers. The rate of DUIs among BMW drivers stands at 3.13 per 1,000 drivers, which is almost double the rate of DUIs among Ram drivers, the brand with the second-highest DUI rate at 1.72. 

The average BMW driver in the U.S. is male and in his mid-forties. BMW drivers are actually the youngest demographic within the luxury car market. With a median household income of approximately $175,000, BMW drivers tend to be homeowners and around 30% of them hold a bachelor's degree from a 4-year college, according to DataMasters. BMW was also contacted for comments on their drink-loving demographic. None had been offered at the time of publishing.

In contrast, the authors note that drivers of brands like Mitsubishi, Volvo, Mercury, and Kia have the lowest DUI rates, with rates of 0.89, 0.92, and 0.93 respectively. Rather soberingly, only nine out of the 30 brands analyzed had DUI rates below 1.00 among their drivers.

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