Monday, April 7, 2014
Olivia Lopez, 86, of North Bergen, NJ, Killed in SUV-Semi Crash
Olivia Lopez, 86 (killed) on 3/19/14. She was the front passenger in a 2007-era Honda CR-V driven by her husband, Hugo Lopez, 83, while their daughter, Juana Lopez, was in the back seat behind the driver. The collision occurred at 4:50 PM on a ramp in North Bergen that led to Route 495 West.
According to Lopez, the CR-V suddenly accelerated. The vehicle hit 4 or more other vehicles before crashing into the back left corner of a tractor trailer. Hugo told police he could not stop the vehicle before it crashed. Olivia died at the scene, while her family members had minor injuries.
Despite the statement from the driver, it is possible that this may have been an unfortunate case of driver error. The 2007-era CR-V is one of the safest cars on the road, as the AWD version had a driver death rate of 7 while the FWD version had a driver death rate of ~20, per the most recent IIHS status report on driver death rates. Unintended accelerations do not appear to be a common complaint in safety reports on the NHTSA website. However, it is important to remember that individual vehicles can and do have malfunctions, and without a detailed analysis of the throttle mechanism of the vehicle, it is impossible to say whether the error rested with the vehicle or the driver.
Structurally, what occurred was a small frontal overlap crash involving rear underride into a semi-trailer. Rear underride small overlap crashes with semis are particularly deadly, as this IIHS report indicates, where a 35 mph 30% overlap crash was almost invariably fatal to the simulated driver. Severe cabin intrusion occurred into the passenger side as the CR-V broke past the underride guard, and sadly, Olivia was almost certainly killed instantly.
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