Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Three Teens from Springfield Township, OH, Killed in Car vs. Tree Crash

Wesley Culpepper, 15; Daniel Tittle, 17; Charles Luthe, 16, were killed on 3/26/14 at around 6 AM in Springfield Township around the 2100 block of Ridge Road. All three were Tecumseh High School students. The vehicle was a 2006-era Hyundai Sonata.

Per the Ohio Highway Patrol, the vehicle was speeding, departed the roadway, struck a tree, and was cut in half. Per the Highway Patrol officers, for the vehicle to have split the way it did, it must have involved high speed and reckless driving. Two victims were located in the vehicle, while a third was ejected.

This seems like, sadly, another clear cut case of speeding, which is implicated in 1 out of every 3 fatalities on the road, or more than 10,000 each year in the US. The sheer amount of destruction imparted on the vehicle, as visible in the pictures, suggests the vehicle may have impacted the tree from the passenger's side at a speed of at least 70 mph, split in two, and rolled in multiple pieces several times before coming to a rest.

The 2006-era Sonata weighs around ~3541 lbs, is equipped with side head/torso airbags, has an "acceptable" side score, a "marginal" roof score, and a "good" front score. It also came standard with ESC and anti-lock brakes. All of these features were rendered useless by the high rate of speed at which the Sonata's passengers were traveling. Furthermore, none of the occupants wore seat belts, although again, the collision speed would have nullified their effectiveness.

Given the likely speeds of the collision (~70 mph), the collision likely imparted at least 787J of energy into the Sonata. The standard side impact test simulates 143KJ of energy (a 3300-lb sled impacting a vehicle at 31 mph). In other words, the Sonata's passengers faced 550% of the force they'd have experienced in the types of crashes cars are side rated for. Even though they were traveling in a vehicle equipped with head and torso side air bags, their odds of survival were, sadly, virtually non-existent.

This is another preventable set of fatalities that occurred due to the decision to speed. I have to wonder if it might not have been preventable had the parents of the teenagers had some means of awareness of where and how quickly their teens were driving, such as through GPS technology.


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  1. Drinking, I'll bet : (

  2. Not sure I understand the concept of a "single vehicle collision". Doesn't a collision require at least two moving vehicles? If there's only one, it's an allision.

    1. Hi Anonymous,

      Thanks for the comment. Actually, collisions don't necessarily require multiple moving vehicles. A vehicle striking a stationary object (e.g., a tree or a road) still collides with the object (which is where the change in forces occurs).



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