A remarkable thing happened in the Seattle area earlier this week: When a Boeing engineer named Duane Innes was driving to a baseball game, he saw a pickup truck driving erratically, with the driver slumped over the wheel. With the truck barreling towards a busy intersection, Innes used “basic physics” to save the life of the other driver, who turned out to be an 80-year-old man passed out due to circulatory problems.
The Seattle Times reports:
A manager of Boeing’s F22 fighter-jet program, Innes dodged the truck, then looked back to see that the driver was slumped over the wheel. He knew a busy intersection was just ahead, and he had to act fast. Without consulting the passengers in his minivan — “there was no time to take a vote” — Innes kicked into engineer mode.
“Basic physics: If I could get in front of him and let him hit me, the delta difference in speed would just be a few miles an hour, and we could slow down together,” Innes explained.
So he pulled in front of the pickup, allowed it to rear-end his minivan and brought both vehicles safely to a stop in the pull-off lane.
Who says math and physics can’t save lives? In seriousness, the knowledge of how to stop a disastrous collision between the runaway truck and oncoming traffic was only half of Innes’ heroism: Actually using his vehicle to apply the necessary forces took something else. It’s lucky for the other drivers on the road that Innes had that courage, and it’s lucky for his passengers that he got his physics right.
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