BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. - A Blue Springs woman says the Valentine’s Day crash that caused nearly $40,000 of damage to her home and totaled her car was not her fault – but rather that of a design flaw in her 2008 Chrysler Aspen SUV which caused it to accelerate out of control.
Jan Bergsieker said she was coming home for the day with her granddaughter when the accident occurred. She parked on the driveway to allow the 15-year old girl out, then when she shifted back into drive, the SUV suddenly accelerated and slammed into the garage wall. The wheels kept spinning, she said, despite her stomping the brakes.
Bergsieker says she got the car into reverse, and it shot backwards and splintered another wall, nearly hitting her granddaughter. She put it back into drive and then slammed into a third wall, which was strong enough to stop the vehicle, which she was finally able to put in park, then turn off.
“I can describe the whole experience as maybe being a NASCAR driver,” Bergsieker said. “The speed of it at that moment felt like it was going so fast and there was honestly nothing that I could do.”
Bergsieker’s daughter suffered minor cuts and bruises, but the incident so unnerved Bergsieker that she requested a full investigation from her insurance company, and from Chrysler. She said both eventually agreed to an investigation she called cursory at best.
“It looked like more to me like they were just trying to make us happy,” she said.
But the results did anything but. AAA Insurance told her their official cause of the accident was driver error, and Chrysler sent her a letter on March 6 which said the company found “no indication of a manufacturing defect that caused or contributed” to her accident.
That would not be the end of it. Reports of a recent Chrysler recall of other SUV’s prompted Bergsieker to reach out to 41 Action News to air her concerns that the 2008 Aspen might be unsafe.
Department of Transportation records show two reported incidents in the United States similar to Bergsieker’s accident.
In 2010, an Illinois driver reported sudden acceleration that caused him or her to crash through a condo garage. An inspection by a local Chrysler dealer reportedly found nothing wrong. In 2011, a driver in an unspecified state reported four incidents of unintended acceleration in their Aspen, including one that led to a collision and “major damage.”
An auto safety website also shows an incident in Canada in which a driver stopped at a stoplight suddenly accelerated through an intersection .
Chrysler spokesman Mike Palese said the 2008 Aspen as a “excellent safety record.”
"Sudden acceleration has been alleged against every single make and model of vehicle that is on the road today,” Palese said. “There is no specific documented defect against this vehicle that it is prone to sudden acceleration."
"Experts around the world have concluded that sudden acceleration for the most part is attributed to pedal miss-application," he said, referring to drivers inadvertently depressing the gas pedal instead of the brake.
Bergsieker says she is certain that was not the case in her accident.
“Every day I think about it,” she said. “And what I think about is I could have killed my granddaughter.”
If you or someone you know has had similar problems with a 2008 Chrysler Aspen, please contact Garrett Haake at Garrett.Haake@kshb.com.