Van Accidents

Texas Van Accident Attorneys

15 Passenger Van: High Rollover Risk

The rollover risk of passenger vans is exceptionally high. Statistics show passenger vans have contributed to accidents causing hundreds of serious injuries and deaths.

The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), has issued several warnings to users of 15-passenger vans because of an increased rollover risk under certain conditions.

When vans are filled with passengers, or driven above 50 miles per hour, the vans become substantially more unstable than SUVs or pickup trucks. Statistics show large 15 passenger vans are five times more likely to roll over when filled than when only the driver is in the van.

The greater passenger weight in a fully loaded van raises the van's center of gravity and shifts it toward the rear. As a result, the van has less resistance to rolling over in an accident or emergency situation. Placing any load on the roof also raises the van's center of gravity and increases the likelihood of a rollover. The NHTSA found that eighty percent of those who died in 15-passenger van rollovers nationwide in the year 2000 were not wearing their seatbelts. The NHTSA study noted that even when carrying between one and four passengers, the passenger vans were 17 percent more likely to be involved in a rollover accident than smaller vans or minivans.

Car Manufacturers: 15 Passenger Vans

Ford builds and sells most 15 passenger vans in the U.S. These fifteen-passenger vans are widely used by schools, churches and community organizations to drive groups of people to outings. Models of Ford 15 passenger vans include: the Ford Econoline or E-Series, such as the Ford E350 and Club Wagon E350. Other van manufacturer's include Dodge: the Dodge Ram Wagon B350 and Ram Van/Wagon B3500, and Chevrolet: the Chevrolet Express 3500 and the GMC Savana 3500 and Rally/Vandura G3500.

Rollover Crashes and 15 Passenger Vans

Fifteen-passenger vans are widely used by churches and community organizations to take members on short trips and outings. Colleges use 15 passenger vans to drive sports teams to games. Over 500,000 are in use in the U.S. Originally manufactured as cargo vans, automakers never redesigned these vehicles to safely transport people.

In lawsuits by injured passengers and families of loved ones who have died in 15 passenger van rollovers or accidents, it has been alleged that the vans are defective because they are unreasonably likely to rollover during foreseeable driving conditions.

15 Passenger Van Accidents

According to accident statistics, more than 1,200 fatal crashes have occurred involving the 15 passenger vans since 1990. Recent 15 passenger van accidents have included:

  • Three members of a Bronx, New York church group were killed and nine more injured in the rollover of a Ford 15 passenger van at the Canadian border.
  • In East St. Louis, Missouri, a Ford E350 15-passenger van, used by a local church, fishtailed on wet pavement, veered into a ditch and turned on its side. A thirteen year old boy was killed in the accident, and five other children were seriously injured.
  • Four members of the Coptic Orthodox Community in Northern California were killed near Barstow, California, when the 2002 Ford 15-passenger van they were traveling in rolled over after the driver lost control of the vehicle.
  • A Ford Super Club Wagon 15 passenger van carrying six cheerleaders rolled over near Birmingham, Alabama. Five passengers were ejected. Two were killed. The others suffered injuries ranging from a dislocated hip to partial paralysis.
  • Five firefighters from Oregon that were traveling toward a massive wildfire south of Denver, Colorado were killed when their 21-year-old colleague and driver reportedly reached for something inside the 15-passenger van, a Ford E-350, allowing the van to drift into the median and then overcorrected, which caused the van to roll over four times.
  • In 2000, there were four separate 15 passenger van crashes involving athletic teams, killing five and injuring five others.

Federal Law Relating to 15 Passenger Vans

Federal law prohibits the sale of 15 passenger vans for the transport of high school students or students younger than high school. There is no federal law prohibiting transport of college age students in 15 passenger vans. In 2000, within a three month period, accidents claimed the lives of athletes from Urbana University, Kenyon College, DePaul University, the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and Prairie View A&M University.

Fifteen Passenger Van Safety Recommendations

The NHTSA has issued these safety recommendations for 15 passenger vans:

  • 15-passenger vans should be operated by trained, experienced drivers;
  • All occupants of 15 passenger vans should wear seat belts at all times. NHTSA found that eighty percent of those who died in 15-passenger van rollovers nationwide in the year 2000 were not buckled up;
  • Regularly check tire pressure and treadware on 15 passenger vans to ensure that the tires are properly inflated and the tread is not worn down.

Lawsuits Filed To Obtain Compensation For 15 Passenger Van Injuries

Statistics show that in more than 80% of single-vehicle accidents involving 15-passenger vans that resulted in a fatality, the vans rolled over. Lawsuits filed against van manufacturers claim that manufacturers knew the vans were defective in design and unreasonably dangerous because of instability and tendency to roll over.

15 Passenger Van Safety Concerns

  • Passenger vans are difficult to handle under fully loaded conditions because they are susceptible to over-steering in emergency maneuvers, which leads to loss of control
  • 15 Passenger vans are unstable when loaded, leading to a significant increase in the risk of rollover crashes
  • When a 15 passenger van rolls over, it is not crashworthy and, as a result, occupants are killed in what would otherwise have been easily survivable crashes.

The Solution to 15 Passenger Van Safety Problems

One solution to 15 passenger van safety problems would be fairly easy to implement. Vans retrofitted with dual rear wheels have a significantly better chance of avoiding rollovers. Unfortunately, General Motors Corporation and Ford Motor Company refuse to retrofit 15-passenger vans with dual rear wheels. Ford Motor Company maintains that, despite the mounting evidence suggesting otherwise, the E Series van is "a very safe vehicle." The Ford Motor Company "recommend[s] that drivers of 15-passenger Econoline vans avoid sharp turns, excessive speeds and abrupt maneuvers."

Many rollovers, however, are precipitated by unavoidable emergency maneuvers and tire failures, as Ford perhaps knew. Ford has also been accused of deliberately hiding evidence related to the testing of its 15-passenger vans.

Tips for Using 15 Passenger Vans

Should you temporarily need to continue to use these dangerous vans, the following recommendations are based on those made by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board and the GuideOne Insurance for lowering the risk of rollover in 15-passenger vans:

  • Screen all drivers: it is best to require that drivers obtain a commercial driver's license
  • Remove the rear seat of the vans to reduce loading behind the vehicle's rear axle
  • Limit the capacity to 9 persons including the driver, which dramatically reduces the risk of rollover
  • Load forward seats first at all times
  • Communicate with passengers, parents and other parties about the high risks
  • Do not tow anything behind the vehicle or load the roof
  • Do not use the back cargo area. Prohibit it from being loaded and used as a storage area.
  • Conduct a full safety inspection of the vehicle, including all tires, pre- and post-trip (tire blowouts are particularly dangerous and often lead to rollovers)
  • Include safety items on board, such as a fire extinguisher, first aid kit and cellular phone (which should not be used during driving)
  • Require ALL passengers and the driver to wear proper safety restraints any time the vehicle is in motion.

Have you suffered an injury or accident while operating or riding in a passenger van? Contact Rasansky Law Firm online, or call our offices anytime at 1-877-659-1620 to discuss your situation with our experienced van accident attorneys. In the complimentary consultation, our attorneys will review your experiences and situation and provide you information regarding your legal rights, options, and responsibilities. Our attorneys represent clients all through Texas including: Austin, Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, Lubbock, Corpus Christi, Tyler, El Paso, and all surrounding areas, including Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, and other states nationwide.


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