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Musings on crashing a Tesla

After 30 years of accident free driving, with not so much as a fender bender to my name, the winning streak finally ended in torrential rain on the 101 in la yesterday. Hitting standing water at 60mph I started a slide I couldn't control and ended up spinning rather gracefully sliding backwards and sideways into the sound wall. As we rushed towards the wall I felt very confident I would be protected by the car and that we would be ok. I just relaxed knowing there was nothing I could do but wait. The actual impact was not nearly as savage as I feared. I think we hit the rear corner first and somehow ended up perfectly parrallel to the wall just mm away. The whole drivers side was untouched, the wing mirror was literally 2 mm from the wall and undamaged.
First thing I noticed apart from the fact we were facing the wrong way in a freeway in driving rain (albeit on the hard shoulder) was the smell of burning from the explosive seatbelt pretensioners. No airbags were activated but the seatbelts kept me completely locked in place and no doubt saved a good deal of injury. My wife was in shock and had tried to shield her face from an airbag explosion, as a result her flailing arms somehow hit her head and gave her concussion, but serious injuries.

I called 911 and for once wasn't put on hold for 30 minutes. Soon after a good Samaritan stopped a big pick up behind us to give a bit of protection from on coming traffic.

The car computer was still running but parts started shutting down (I assume the explosive fuse went out). Very soon after a random tow truck with a very pushy driver tried to convince me to let him tow me on his flatbed. I firmly declined though it was a somewhat dangerous location. I called AAA and waited. Police arrived and tow truck driver kept trying to get me leave with him. I am sure he has no idea how to tow a Tesla. Paramedics came because my wife was kind of freaking out and in a lot of pain. Police were super helpful for once, tow truck driver left when police arrived. Another tow truck arrived and I told him to leave. Don't take the tow truck unless you call them! Finally highway patrol tow truck arrived. I had to decide whether to go with my wife to hospital or start with the car. I decided to get the car sorted and come back for the wife. It was a confusing situation though. Got towed in a standard tow truck (thankful for rear wheel drive only) off the freeway. AAA arrived an hour later. Fortunately I already knew of one official Tesla body shop that just happened to be 6.5 miles away(under my free tow limit of 7 miles). AAA sent a flatbed but the guy had no dolly for the car. He asked what I wanted to do and I said I was concerned about wrecking the car if we dragged it. I asked if he had towed Tesla before and he said he had. By then I had started to think more clearly and realised we had to get the car in tow mode but by then the car had completely shut down and was completely dead. AAA hooked up the 12v to open the trunk, then Jun ok started the 12 battery which eventually got the computer bag up and running so I could activate transport mode. This sets the car to be completely free rolling. At the body shop the computer had shut down but would but restart. I had left the driver window ajar but couldn't open the doors. No door would open which seems like a bad flaw. The manual release on the inside worked just fine but you have to be careful not to lock yourself out. We got the door open with a wire to manually open the driver door to retrieve items but never got the computer up and running again.

Sadly the car is almost certainly a write off despite surprisingly little external damage. The frame was bent by the impact.

Things I learned.
  • After a crash open a window so you can open the door.
  • Don't forget about opening the frunk to access 12v battery.
  • Put your phone in battery saver mode!
  • Don't trust random tow truck drivers unless it's a true emergency life and death type thing.
  • If you know you will crash, relax as much as possible and let fate decide.

So now I wait for Geico to decide what my car was worth.

Sadly my car was a real unicorn. A rare model 3 with free supercharging for life was s brilliant perk that got me to 80,000 miles with very little money spent.
I could buy a new car but I am thinking an older one with things like the infused premium connectivity, entertainment and eap would be better. I don't care about the colour or how new it is.

One other thing to note for all Tesla owners, you can never check your tire tread often enough... Especially the drive wheels. You might be shocked how bad they can get very quickly which definitely doesn't help in wet conditions..

Anyone want to sell a 2018 with eap and lowish miles?

1024px-Blue_Tesla_Model_3.jpg

"File:Blue Tesla Model 3.jpg" by DatTr0waway (edited by Deepdeepocean) is marked with CC0 1.0.
(Image added by TMC Admin for purpose of the Blog)
 
After 30 years of accident free driving, with not so much as a fender bender to my name, the winning streak finally ended in torrential rain on the 101 in la yesterday. Hitting standing water at 60mph I started a slide I couldn't control and ended up spinning rather gracefully sliding backwards and sideways into the sound wall. As we rushed towards the wall I felt very confident I would be protected by the car and that we would be ok. I just relaxed knowing there was nothing I could do but wait. The actual impact was not nearly as savage as I feared. I think we hit the rear corner first and somehow ended up perfectly parrallel to the wall just mm away. The whole drivers side was untouched, the wing mirror was literally 2 mm from the wall and undamaged.
First thing I noticed apart from the fact we were facing the wrong way in a freeway in driving rain (albeit on the hard shoulder) was the smell of burning from the explosive seatbelt pretensioners. No airbags were activated but the seatbelts kept me completely locked in place and no doubt saved a good deal of injury. My wife was in shock and had tried to shield her face from an airbag explosion, as a result her flailing arms somehow hit her head and gave her concussion, but serious injuries.

I called 911 and for once wasn't put on hold for 30 minutes. Soon after a good Samaritan stopped a big pick up behind us to give a bit of protection from on coming traffic.

The car computer was still running but parts started shutting down (I assume the explosive fuse went out). Very soon after a random tow truck with a very pushy driver tried to convince me to let him tow me on his flatbed. I firmly declined though it was a somewhat dangerous location. I called AAA and waited. Police arrived and tow truck driver kept trying to get me leave with him. I am sure he has no idea how to tow a Tesla. Paramedics came because my wife was kind of freaking out and in a lot of pain. Police were super helpful for once, tow truck driver left when police arrived. Another tow truck arrived and I told him to leave. Don't take the tow truck unless you call them! Finally highway patrol tow truck arrived. I had to decide whether to go with my wife to hospital or start with the car. I decided to get the car sorted and come back for the wife. It was a confusing situation though. Got towed in a standard tow truck (thankful for rear wheel drive only) off the freeway. AAA arrived an hour later. Fortunately I already knew of one official Tesla body shop that just happened to be 6.5 miles away(under my free tow limit of 7 miles). AAA sent a flatbed but the guy had no dolly for the car. He asked what I wanted to do and I said I was concerned about wrecking the car if we dragged it. I asked if he had towed Tesla before and he said he had. By then I had started to think more clearly and realised we had to get the car in tow mode but by then the car had completely shut down and was completely dead. AAA hooked up the 12v to open the trunk, then Jun ok started the 12 battery which eventually got the computer bag up and running so I could activate transport mode. This sets the car to be completely free rolling. At the body shop the computer had shut down but would but restart. I had left the driver window ajar but couldn't open the doors. No door would open which seems like a bad flaw. The manual release on the inside worked just fine but you have to be careful not to lock yourself out. We got the door open with a wire to manually open the driver door to retrieve items but never got the computer up and running again.

Sadly the car is almost certainly a write off despite surprisingly little external damage. The frame was bent by the impact.

Things I learned.
  • After a crash open a window so you can open the door.
  • Don't forget about opening the frunk to access 12v battery.
  • Put your phone in battery saver mode!
  • Don't trust random tow truck drivers unless it's a true emergency life and death type thing.
  • If you know you will crash, relax as much as possible and let fate decide.

So now I wait for Geico to decide what my car was worth.

Sadly my car was a real unicorn. A rare model 3 with free supercharging for life was s brilliant perk that got me to 80,000 miles with very little money spent.
I could buy a new car but I am thinking an older one with things like the infused premium connectivity, entertainment and eap would be better. I don't care about the colour or how new it is.

One other thing to note for all Tesla owners, you can never check your tire tread often enough... Especially the drive wheels. You might be shocked how bad they can get very quickly which definitely doesn't help in wet conditions..

Anyone want to sell a 2018 with eap and lowish miles?

View attachment 873857
"File:Blue Tesla Model 3.jpg" by DatTr0waway (edited by Deepdeepocean) is marked with CC0 1.0.
(Image added by TMC Admin for purpose of the Blog)
The 101 just east of 405 is a cursed area. Not sure if that is where you were. Glad you both are okay.
 

Transformer

Do the math. Save the world. — Mark Leon
Dec 26, 2019
710
555
Silicon Valley
@angelman glad you're both OK!

People can get a Tesla-trained tow truck by contacting Tesla Roadside Assistance via the app. I don't know how long that'd take in the middle of LA.

On Fwy 5 in Oregon, it took 3 hours. Terrific tow driver. He knew exactly what to do, starting with attaching the winch chains to my front wheels. He said the hook in the frunk is not reliable enough. He drove us > 200 miles to Portland, which had the only Tesla service center in Oregon.

(We had a breakdown, not an accident.)
 
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Thanks for the report angelman. I’m glad you weren’t in the middle of a pod of vehicles when your car started twirling around and off the freeway. If this happens to me (not likely because typically I’m too much of a coward to drive an L.A. freeway in heavy rain) the first things I will be thinking now is “roll down the window” and ”wait for triple A”. The freelance tow-truck drivers around this area are probably safer or less safe according to whether or not they have gotten off probation for whatever time they were serving. (The ones still on probation probably being safer to deal with.)

Do you have any thoughts on driving strategies/methods/techniques that might have helped you avoid the accident entirely?
 
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Thanks for the report angelman. I’m glad you weren’t in the middle of a pod of vehicles when your car started twirling around and off the freeway. If this happens to me (not likely because typically I’m too much of a coward to drive an L.A. freeway in heavy rain) the first things I will be thinking now is “roll down the window” and ”wait for triple A”. The freelance tow-truck drivers around this area are probably safer or less safe according to whether or not they have gotten off probation for whatever time they were serving. (The ones still on probation probably being safer to deal with.)

Do you have any thoughts on driving strategies/methods/techniques that might have helped you avoid the accident entirely?
Thank GOD you survived and were not killed or injured badly.
 

KenC

Active Member
Sep 4, 2018
4,867
4,638
Maine
Thanks for the report angelman. I’m glad you weren’t in the middle of a pod of vehicles when your car started twirling around and off the freeway. If this happens to me (not likely because typically I’m too much of a coward to drive an L.A. freeway in heavy rain) the first things I will be thinking now is “roll down the window” and ”wait for triple A”. The freelance tow-truck drivers around this area are probably safer or less safe according to whether or not they have gotten off probation for whatever time they were serving. (The ones still on probation probably being safer to deal with.)

Do you have any thoughts on driving strategies/methods/techniques that might have helped you avoid the accident entirely?
Don't drive on the 101 in the rain? Uhm, drive slower? Uhm, don't drive in the edge lanes in rain, where there are more likely to be drains backed up causing puddling due to road camber? Uhm, keep an eye out for puddles!

Oh, also make sure you've got plenty of tread on your tires, don't try to run them down to the wear bars. I change my tires when they're at about half tread, 4mm. I'd like to get 3yrs out of them, but if only 2, I don't really care. Better safe than sorry. Depending upon how new the tires are, when it rains, makes a difference in how fast I think I'll try to drive.
 
Last edited:
Thanks for the thoughts!

Question: when the first truck(s) arrived, you still had sufficient power to put the car in tow mode, correct? We’re you then just worried they wouldn’t know how to hook up the tow cables to pull it up, or were you worried that you’d get charged for the tow?
First time truck was an unsolicited private service. They cruise the freeways looking for people in trouble and sometimes are not always forthright about how much they will charge. I wasn't going to chance it.
Don't drive on the 101 in the rain? Uhm, drive slower? Uhm, don't drive in the edge lanes in rain, where there are more likely to be drains backed up causing puddling due to road camber? Uhm, keep an eye out for puddles!

Oh, also make sure you've got plenty of tread on your tires, don't try to run them down to the wear bars. I change my tires when they're at about half tread, 4mm. I'd like to get 3yrs out of them, but if only 2, I don't really care. Better safe than sorry. Depending upon how new the tires are, when it rains, makes a difference in how fast I think I'll try to drive.
Yes, in hindsight the only two things I could have done are simply drive slower (40 instead of 60) and inspected my rear tires more often. I had checked them maybe a month before because I had to put some air in them and they seemed OK then, but apparently I lost a bunch of tread since then... I was in the centre lane of the freeway because that has the least water. I have driven in LA rain many many times and have seen plenty of people spin out in front of me. That said, driving a 1967 Buick convertible in driving rain where you know any crash will jsut lead to death or horrible injuries is a much bigger incentive to be incredibly careful. Modern cars, especially ones as safe as a Tesla definitely lead to a certain complacency. I don't believe I did anything especially dumb or reckless and I am sure driving much slower could have helped (but in LA that can also be dangerous in itself). Sometimes one just has bad luck. 30 years of zero accidents is pretty good going I think.
 
First time truck was an unsolicited private service. They cruise the freeways looking for people in trouble and sometimes are not always forthright about how much they will charge. I wasn't going to chance it.

Yes, in hindsight the only two things I could have done are simply drive slower (40 instead of 60) and inspected my rear tires more often. I had checked them maybe a month before because I had to put some air in them and they seemed OK then, but apparently I lost a bunch of tread since then... I was in the centre lane of the freeway because that has the least water. I have driven in LA rain many many times and have seen plenty of people spin out in front of me. That said, driving a 1967 Buick convertible in driving rain where you know any crash will jsut lead to death or horrible injuries is a much bigger incentive to be incredibly careful. Modern cars, especially ones as safe as a Tesla definitely lead to a certain complacency. I don't believe I did anything especially dumb or reckless and I am sure driving much slower could have helped (but in LA that can also be dangerous in itself). Sometimes one just has bad luck. 30 years of zero accidents is pretty good going I think.

I think the slower you go the crazier people are willing to get in order to pass your car. If I was to slow down to 50mph even, it would seem mandatory to me to switch to the right-hand lane. But then, apparently, that’s one of the lanes where the water tends to gather…
 
I think the slower you go the crazier people are willing to get in order to pass your car. If I was to slow down to 50mph even, it would seem mandatory to me to switch to the right-hand lane. But then, apparently, that’s one of the lanes where the water tends to gather…
I remember driving in Italy on the autostrade. It was driving rain so much that I could barely see. Average traffic speed was around 90mph. Terrifying that even at 95mph cars were behind me flashing me to move over for going too slow..
 
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KenC

Active Member
Sep 4, 2018
4,867
4,638
Maine
All good answers. One last thought, you should always try to have your deepest tread on the fronts. Far easier to control an understeer condition than an oversteer one where the car's rear wants to come around.

I've driven the Italian autostrada, Po Valley, in intense winter fog, pure insanity. With how dry it's gotten over the years, one benefit is that the winter fog is no longer bad.
 
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