Dr. Jonathan Braman specializes in shoulders and arms as an orthopedic surgeon at the University of Minnesota Medical Center.
Nine years ago, he was the surgeon on call the day the I-35W bridge collapsed near campus. Before and since that tragedy, Braman's steadied the knife on plenty of people who have just been pulled from automobiles and rushed into surgery.
"I've taken care of lots of different people in mass casualty events, with multiple injuries," Braman said. "I was fortunate not to be one of them."
Braman's referring to a harrowing car accident he and his family survived this past weekend, with everyone packed into the car and scheduled for a trip to a family cabin. Driving south on East Bush Lake Road in suburban Bloomington, Braman was looking to turn left, east, onto Interstate 494.
His 76-year-old father rode shotgun in Braman's new Tesla Model X. Braman's wife, two kids, and mother were in the backseat. The family dog was somehwere back there, too.
Braman got the green arrow. He waited a couple beats, didn't see any red-light stragglers coming through on the other side, and pulled out.
A half-instant later, a white killer whale of an SUV came into Braman's line of sight.
"I did see him coming," Braman says. "The [Model X] has the largest windshield ever put in a car. This was the largest windshield ever, filled up by a GMC."
Braman slammed on his brakes, and guesses the other SUV might've been traveilng at 45 miles per hour at impact. The GMC hit the Tesla on its right front fender, closest to Braman's dad.
Both airbags deployed — "like a shotgun going off in each ear," Braman says — and, after a silent moment, the driver wanted very badly to get himself and everyone else out of the car. A group of good samaritans, young men, pulled over to check on passengers of both vehicles.
There were no major injuries. Braman says he knows why.
"The [Tesla] car did its job," he says. "It sacrificed itself so my family could be safe. The car absorbed the impact to protect, even, the occupants of the other vehicle. The fact that my car is destroyed, and his isn't, doesn't mean my car did something wrong."
In fact, it did exactly what it had advertised. From Tesla's own description of the car:
"Without a gasoline engine, the large front trunk acts as a giant impact-absorbing crumple zone," Tesla writes. This is what Braman saw in his own accident, with the GMC having "sheared off" the front of the car, with minimal impact on the rest of the body.
"We actually didn't even move that much," Braman says. "We just deflected off the other car."
The California company's first SUV hasn't been tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) yet, but is already bragging that, based on its internal test, it will be the first sport utility vehicle ever to receive the highest safety rating in all categories.
Prior to this spring, Braman drove a pickup truck, and before that he and his wife had a station wagon the family outgrew. How much did Braman know about Tesla's safety claims when he bought the Model X back in April?
"Everything," he says. "That's why I was in the car. That's why my family was in the car."
Braman takes the same turn off East Bush Lake Road to get to work every day. God forbid he ever meets another vehicle in that intersection. If it does happen, he's sure — now more than ever — what kind of car he wants to be in.
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