And They Walked Away! Teslas Protect Their Passengers When Bad Things Happen.

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Shocking videos and photos this week prove that if bad things are going to happen when you’re behind the wheel, make sure you are in a Tesla when they do.

Tesla crash Fremont
Credit: KPIX5 via YouTube

On February 15, Brian Morton, who is believed to be a Tesla employee, was driving on Paseo Padre Parkway at 7 o’clock in the morning in Fremont, California, when his white Tesla Model X left the road and slammed head on into some trees. The car was heavily damage and caught fire after the collision but Morton was able to extricate himself from the wreck and walk away.

The news reports are focusing on the fire. “Oh, my God! Another Tesla has burst into flames! We must run and tell the world! Fire! Fire! Fire!” A study by the National Fire Protection Association found that between 2003 and 2007, there were an average of  287,000 vehicle fires per year in the US. They caused an average of 480 civilian deaths, 1,525 civilian injuries, and $1.3 billion in direct property damage each year. Do you recall 480 screaming headlines about vehicle fires last year? Neither do I.

Now look at the damage done to the Morton’s Model X and ask yourself, “How is it possible the driver walked away from this crash with no significant injuries?” I suggest that’s what the media should be focusing on. Contacted by ABC7 News, Tesla issued this statement:

“We have been in touch with the local authorities to learn the facts of the incident and offer our full cooperation. The damage sustained by the vehicle is indicative of a very high speed collision, which can result in a fire in any type of car, not just electric vehicles. Despite the significant impact, we understand that the driver sustained only minor injuries and has been taken to the hospital for further evaluation. We are glad that he is safe.”

The company statement makes one excellent point. Does anyone seriously suggest a conventional car with a gasoline engine involved in such a high-speed collision would not burst into flames? If that’s the story you’re selling, I’d like some of whatever it is you’re smoking.

The more important question is, what other vehicle can you think of that would protect the driver from injury in a violent head-on collision like this one as well or better than the Tesla? Need more time? The answer is “None.” So could we please get real with this “exploding Tesla” malarkey?

About That Crash In Miami

Also in the news recently is a surveillance video taken last fall of a Tesla blowing a red light in Miami at 93 mph. The video was released by authorities a few days ago and uploaded to YouTube by the Daily Mail. If you are confused by the title you see at the top of the video, here’s the explanation as reported by NBC6 in Miami.

An analysis of the vehicle recorder in the Tesla showed it was traveling 128 mph just two seconds before the crash — the driver, Jose Manuel Soto, accelerated about 5 seconds before the crash. He hit the brake pedal about 1.5 seconds before the collision. Police say the video shows the traffic light at the intersection was red for about 6 seconds before the crash. At the time of the impact, the Tesla had slowed to 93 mph.

Soto walked away from the crash. The three passengers in the Infiniti SUV he broadsided where not so fortunate. One was in a coma for several weeks. Another had multiple fractures and a collapsed lung. The third suffered a a traumatic brain injury. All survived but none will ever have what might be described as a normal life again.

Soto has been arrested. His lawyer, Robert Reiff, tells NBC6 that the fact his client was driving 128 just seconds before the crash proves media bias, as that fact can only be justified for its “shock value.” He also claims MacArthur Causeway where the collision occurred is known for being a dangerous highway.

“What this video recording does expose is the poor design and under-speeded roadway that is the MacArthur Causeway,” Reiff said. “This roadway has been the scene of far too many serious traffic accidents and we believe that the roadway needs to be fully examined by the Florida Department of Transportation.”

That’s right, Attorney Bob. Your client is travelling 128 mph in a 45 mph zone, fails to respond to a red light for almost 5 seconds, and it’s the poor design of the road that people got hurt? Is it any wonder why people hate lawyers?

Thank Your Frunk

As I was writing this story, my wife asked what it was about Teslas that make them so safe in frontal collisions. I explained to her that not having a great lump of an engine in the front of the car meant Tesla engineers had much more freedom to design energy absorbing structures into the space ahead of the passenger compartment. To most of us, that extra space is just a frunk — a place to carry a briefcase or a few grocery bags. But it’s the structure around that space that absorbs frontal impacts and diverts them to the safety cell that surrounds the passenger compartment, keeping us alive despite the violence of a high-speed collision.

The news media would do well to focus on that fact rather than scaring people about exploding batteries. We all understand the “if it bleeds, it leads” nature of what passes for journalism today, but a Tesla really is quite different from a conventional car and noticeably safer in many ways. It wouldn’t hurt to pop that into the conversation once in a while.

Recommended reading on that topic: The EV Safety Advantage.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."

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