U.S. NTSB cites speeding in fatal Tesla 2021 Florida crash

FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: Tesla Model 3 drives on autopilot along California freeway

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The National Transportation Safety Board said on Wednesday the probable cause of a fatal September 2021 Tesla Model 3 crash in Coral Gables, Florida, was the driver decision to travel at high speed.

The crash occurred on a residential street with a 30-mile-per-hour (48-kph) speed limit and resulted in the deaths of the 20-year-old driver and a 19-year-old passenger.

The NTSB said the vehicle was traveling at 90 miles per hour (145 kph) seconds before the crash. The driver had been driving the Tesla for just six days.

Tesla driver assistance system Autopilot was not a factor. NTSB said evidence showed the "driver was actively engaged in the driving task ... Distraction was also excluded as a factor; records from the driver's cell phone usage indicated that he was not talking or texting at the time of the crash."

As the car approached an intersection and signal, it accelerated, shifted and ran a red light. The driver then lost control, went off the roadway, and struck two trees in the center median.

A postcrash fire destroyed the vehicle and firefighters faced challenges in extinguishing the fire and reported that the Tesla batteries reignited at least once.

The NTSB says speeding heightens crash risk by increasing both the likelihood of a crash as the severity of injuries and damage is especially prevalent among teen drivers.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that 29% of fatal crashes involved speeding

behavior in 2020 -- 11,258 deaths, up from 17% of deaths in 2019.

The NHTSA said last year more than one-third of male drivers in the 15-to-20-year-old age group involved in fatal crashes were speeding at the time of the crash, the highest

among all recorded age groups.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Sandra Maler)