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John Bisnar
John Bisnar
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The Most Deadly Vehicle – The 15-Passenger Van

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Why haven’t they been recalled?

There is no doubt, the evidence is clear, the fifteen-passenger van is the most dangerous vehicle on our roads. It is the vehicle most likely to be involved in a single-vehicle rollover accident. Rollover accidents are the most deadly type of traffic accident on our highways today.

The fifteen-passenger van is the extra-long van that is commonly used by airport shuttles. It is the type of van that is used extensively by colleges and church groups. Its sale to primary schools and high schools is outlawed. This type van is rented daily by unsuspecting consumers from rental car agencies without adequate warnings regarding their accident propensity.

Why are rental car agencies allowed to rent 15-passenger vans, especially without adequate warnings?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued an updated safety advisory on these vehicles. In fact, the latest advisory marks the 4th time in just 5 years that NHTSA has issued a safety warning regarding these vehicles. On its website, NHTSA says the good news is, “The percent of 15-passenger van occupant fatalities that occur as a result of rollover crashes is down from a high of 81% in 2000 to 52% in 2003.”

The good news should be that NHTSA orders them recalled and dumped in the ocean to make reefs off our coasts. At least NHTSA should forbid the rental of these vans to anyone without a commercial drivers license. What could possibly be the reason that NHTSA does not more highly regulate their use or ban them from our highways completely? Political influence?

We successfully sued an auto rental company twice for renting these vans to unsuspecting groups. The first was a group of friends that rented a Dodge B3500, 15-passenger van, intending to travel from Los Angeles to Las Vegas to celebrate a birthday. The other was a church group that rented a Ford E350, 15-passenger van, to travel from the Los Angeles area to the San Francisco Bay area to perform volunteer work. The result was the same. The vans rolled due to their unstable nature, resulting in multiple deaths and serious injuries. We held Ford and Daimler-Chrysler accountable as well.

On its website, NHTSA says:

Still, more needs to be done to alert operators of these vehicles’ high center of gravity — particularly when fully loaded – and their increased chance of rollover. NHTSA is continuing to work to get the word out about this increased rollover risk, as well as what can be done to mitigate it.

Take the damned things off the road. Forbid them to be rented to non-professional drivers. Require warning labels to be plastered all over the interior of the vans advising of the inherent dangers of these 15-passenger vans.

Please do not ride in these death traps. The rollover risk rises dramatically with the number of occupants. With ten or more passengers, these vans are three times more likely to rollover in single vehicle accidents than when lightly loaded. The auto dealers and rental car agencies never tell you that.

If it sounds like I have an attitude about these vans, you are right. I do. I have represented the injured and the families of the deceased. It make me angry that the governmental agency responsible for vehicle safety and standards, chooses to cater to the auto makers and rental agencies at the cost of lives. NHTSA’s solution to this problem, non-required, “hangtags” in these 15-passenger death traps that warn of their dangers. At least they could require the information permanently displayed in a prominent place in the interior of the vans.