NHTSA investigates 16 deadly Tesla highway crashes

2 mins read

A fatal crash involving a Tesla on Interstate-680 in Contra Costa County is being investigated by national transportation officials. 

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, it suspects the Tesla was operating on its automated driving system when it slammed into a fire engine on I-680 in Walnut Creek on February 18. 

A Contra Costa County Fire Protection District engine was being used as a traffic barrier for paramedics working on a prior crash when the Tesla crashed into. 

The Tesla Model S’s driver was killed, its passenger critically injured, and four firefighters suffered from minor injuries. 

The February 18 collision is the 51st Tesla crash nationwide and the 16th to have fatalities. It is currently being investigated by the NHTSA’s special crash investigation teams. 

A bigger NHTSA investigation is focusing on Tesla’s autopilot feature and what it might contribute to Teslas crashing into parked emergency vehicles. 

Tesla’s website describes its autopilot technology as “an advanced driver assistance system that enhances safety and convenience behind the wheel. When used properly, Autopilot reduces your overall workload as a driver. Each new Tesla vehicle is equipped with eight external cameras and powerful vision processing to provide an additional layer of safety. Autopilot, Enhanced Autopilot and Full Self-Driving Capability are intended for use with a fully attentive driver, who has their hands on the wheel and is prepared to take over at any moment.”

Highway transportation investigators classified autopilot-related crashes as “Advanced Driver Assistance Systems.” Thirty-five of the 51 Tesla crashes likely had automated systems in use when the collision occurred, according to NHTSA. Nineteen victims died in those crashes


Charlene is a Bay Area journalist who hails from the small community of Fresno. Drawing from her experience writing for her college paper, Charlene continues to advocate for free press and local journalism. She also volunteers in all the beach cleanups she can because she loves the water.