Driverless car illustration
Could Driverless Cars Really Reduce Traffic Fatalities?

At the Law Office of David E. Gordon, we have seen first-hand the terrible injuries that can occur due to car accidents. We know that the majority of these car accidents are the result of mistakes or errors made by one of the drivers involved in the crash.

This is why we are interested in learning more about any new safety feature or design that could potentially reduce the number of injuries and deaths on our roadways.

One new advance that is being widely touted is the “driverless” car. Many traffic safety advocates believe that, by taking driver error out of the equation, these automobiles could reduce the number of traffic-related fatalities in the U.S.


According to a study by McKinsey and Company, a global management consulting firm, the development of self-driving automobiles is close to becoming a reality.

Referred to as autonomous vehicles, or AVs, these driverless cars could be seen in American car markets by the mid-2020s, according to McKinsey. In fact, they are already being used in fields such as mining and farming. Construction equipment, including lifts, loaders and excavators, could soon feature autonomous vehicle technology as well.

According to McKinsey, driverless cars may offer several benefits to consumers, including:

  • Drivers would save a great amount of time by not having to drive themselves
  • Because these self-driving vehicles would drop their passengers off at the door, parking spaces could conceivably become narrower, saving space
  • AV cars would promote and encourage the entire field of robotics, increasing interest in robotic software applications.

However, the best benefit of AV cars may ultimately be the safety factor. It is estimated that self-driving cars could decrease accident fatalities by as much as 90 percent, according to McKinsey. If this occurred, it would cause car accidents to drop from being the second-leading cause of accident-related deaths in the U.S. to being the ninth-leading cause.

Also, by decreasing these types of accidents, AV cars could save not only thousands of lives but more than $190 billion in costs associated with fatal car accidents as well, the McKinsey study states.


In terms of the increased safety provided by self-driving cars, it is important to understand that the cars themselves are not necessarily designed to be particularly safer than the cars we drive today.

The main factor resulting in their increased safety and decreased risk of accidents would be the fact that they are driverless. In other words, human error would be removed the equation.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), less than 10 percent of fatal accidents are due to an automobile malfunction or as the result of environmental factors such as ice, snow or poor road conditions.

In more than 90 percent of these severe accidents, driver error is responsible for the crash, according to the NHTSA. The agency reports that the most common driver errors that result in car accidents include:

  • Recognition errors – Driver inattention and distracted driving account for 41 percent of accidents caused by driver error
  • Decision-related errors – Choosing to speed or disregard traffic signals is responsible for 33 percent of driver error accidents
  • Performance errors – Losing control of the vehicle or overcompensating on turns is responsible for 11 percent of these accidents
  • Non-performance errors – Falling asleep behind the wheel and similar acts are responsible for roughly eight percent of accidents due to driver error.

Using cell phones and texting are common driving distractions that end up resulting in serious and potentially fatal accidents as well. Drunk driving or driving under the influence of illegal or prescription drugs can impact the ability to recognize and respond to what happens on the road.

While all of these types of driving behaviors are illegal in Tennessee, they continue to cause havoc and hardships despite the best efforts of law enforcement to raise awareness and apprehend those who violate these laws.


The automotive industry has fast-tracked plans for the self-driving automobile, and even tech giants like Google and Apple are jumping on board.

However, despite the best efforts of scientists and engineers, it may be some time before driverless cars become widely available and driven in numbers great enough to positively impact traffic safety in any tangible way.

According to the consumer information website,, driverless cars still face a number of hurdles before they hit the mass market. Technical issues, regulation issues and public acceptance all are areas that will need to be addressed.

Some technical challenges driverless cars face include developing camera resolution that would make driving at night safe and developing computers that would be able to respond quickly to obstacles that appear suddenly in the road such as pedestrians or animals. quotes a major car retailer as saying that, perhaps, it might be best to test driverless cars with limited use in communities much like golf carts.

Roads and highways also would likely need to undergo changes in terms of having “automated lanes” to accommodate self-driving vehicles. While autonomous vehicles are still almost a decade away from being put into practical use, the automotive and technology fields will continue to work out the kinks in what could promise to be the car of the future.

At the Law Office of David E. Gordon, we know that driver errors often result in serious and potentially fatal injuries. We are committed to supporting advances in auto safety as well as standing up for the rights of crash victims and their families in Memphis and throughout Tennessee. If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident due to suspected driver negligence, please don’t hesitate to contact us today for a free consultation about your case.

The Law Offices of David E. Gordon

The Law Offices of David E. Gordon