Goofy drives the jeep straight into a palm tree and they are forced to continue on foot. What's more, it is the only palm tree in the area!
This has actually happened in real life - the poor Lonely Tree of Ténéré
being an example; I read a similar story, about a different incident, in a book at primary school, prior to the Lonely Tree accident (which I seem to remember that John Craven’s Newsround
covered at the time), and I think that that reasoned it as follows.
Drivers in deserts have few markers by which to guage distance, so a tree makes a promising “target”.
However, it still isn’t great, because there is no context to judge the size of the distant tree.
Driving across a desert is monotonous, and it’s easy for a driver to lose attention/ fall asleep.
So a sleepy driver heads towards a tree, not realizing that it’s perhaps stunted, and thus is a small tree closer to than they think, combining to result in dozy driver runs vehicle into a lone tree.
I’m sure if it’s happened once, it’s happened before, and it’s the sort of story which papers and word of mouth would carry, so it’s entirely possible that many people, Hergé and Gottfredson have heard such tales.
If you take into account that such stories work best when stripped of too much detail (it’s funnier if you just say “in the middle of the desert”, than “by a road in the middle of the desert”, and you don’t mention that it was once one of several tress, all of which were also destroyed by people), it’s easy to see that similar events just become stories of people driving across vast open spaces and suddenly hitting a tree, which then get transferred to strip cartoons.