pic of teen driver

Some Things Will Kill You

Tesla vehicles made the news twice this week as the Riley family filed a lawsuit for negligence and liability after their son died in a high-speed crash last year and news that a Nissan Leaf’s replacement battery would cost $33,000 hit the airwaves. Last week an officer in California had to stop pursuit of a criminal because his battery went dead. Misfortune seems to follow owners of Tesla vehicles but I suspect a different issue that parents need to consider.

In the author’s own voice…

Barrett Riley was driving 116 miles per hour when he crashed into a wall and his car exploded into a ball of flames. The medical examiner said he died of injuries related to the fire, prompting his father James Riley to conclude the crash was “entirely survivable.” His front seat passenger was also killed. Tesla argues that hitting a wall at that speed would be fatal in any vehicle. Strangely enough, the person who survived the wreck was thrown from the vehicle before the crash, opposite of what normally happens to passengers ejected from a car.

The other story was less tragic for everyone except the owner. The bank of lithium-ion batteries that powers a Tesla have a predicted life of 10 years. Notes on the Tesla site predicted the cost would only be $12-15,000 by the time ten years had passed but that wasn’t the case for Phillip Carlson who was presented a bill for $33,385 for his seven-year-old car now worth only $12,000.

There’s more than one way to die in a Tesla. You can crash your car at 116 miles per hour or fall over dead after seeing the replacement battery bill.

The Riley’s in Florida have been addressing challenges from Tesla ownership for a long time. Last year they installed a device that would prevent speeds more than 85 miles per hour in James Riley’s car after Barrett received a ticket for speeding. Unfortunately, it was removed during a service appointment which allowed the 116 mph crash, as cited in the lawsuit. The passenger who perished had already sued Tesla over another incident previously.

Isn’t the issue preventable on an entirely different level? As we launch our children into a world where the things they use as tools can kill them, shouldn’t we be certain they have a healthy view of reality and consequences? I’m always hesitant to blame a parent for a child’s mistakes but I also want to learn from other’s mistakes as a father. Parenting with Love and Logic authors Jim and Charles Fay have long warned that consequences are best learned when the price tag is low.  

Children learn when they are two years old that people who run too fast can fall down. They experiment with things being thrown and dropped and crushed. Unless we remove all the effects from these causes, they develop a sense about danger and safety that protects them from future harm.

I realize that as new dangers arise that have been untested, most teenagers feel it their obligation to run new experiments. It’s less a matter of science and more a matter of adventure. But this wasn’t Barrett’s first attempt at driving fast. There had been tickets and devices installed to prevent this kind of thing. The spirit of adventure exceeded the safety constraints and now he and his friend are dead. All the more reason for us to double down on keeping the link between cause and effect firmly established in our children’s minds. Never remove small consequences from your child’s world. They will need those lessons later in life.

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