The auto industry has known for years that 15-passenger vans pose an enormous risk of rolling over leading to an extremely high rate of fatalities. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), accidents involving 15-passenger vans resulted in 1090 fatalities with more than half of those fatalities resulting from rollover accidents during a nine year period.
15-passenger vans were originally designed for hauling cargo and were not redesigned to make them safe when the design was adapted to hold more passengers. The high center of gravity and weight distribution in these vehicles makes them extremely prone to rollover accidents. At Montlick and Associates, Attorneys at Law, we have been representing those injured and killed in 15-passenger van accidents throughout the state of Georgia for over 39 years.
The auto industry and NHTSA have long been aware of the inherent risk that the defective design of 15-passenger vans pose to those who use them. Federal law prohibits their use by schools to transport children in grades K-12. Yet no such law prevents their use to transport college students, or members of community groups, YMCAs, daycare centers, senior centers or other groups. Fifteen passenger vans are frequently used as airport shuttles and for church groups and business groups. These dangerous vehicles are popular with a wide range of organizations because any licensed driver can drive a 15-passenger van. The inherent danger posed by these vehicles is such common knowledge that many universities have banned their use, and a number of insurers have refused to provide coverage for 15-passenger vans. No commercial driver’s license is required. These vehicles were originally designed as cargo vans and were never redesigned to make them safe for transporting people. The vehicles look like any other van except they have been lengthened to accommodate more passengers.
A number of faulty design features make 15-passenger vans prone to rollover accidents with an even greater risk if the vehicle is fully loaded. The vehicles are top heavy and do not have a wide enough wheel base. The vehicles get even more top heavy when fully loaded with passengers as well as luggage on the top of the vehicle. Additionally, when fully loaded, the back seat holds 4 passengers behind the rear axle. The weight behind the rear axle makes the back end heavy so that when the vehicle swerves, the rear of the vehicle swings out. An NHTSA study found that when these vehicles are involved in single vehicle fatality accidents with 10 or more passengers, 85% of the accidents result in a rollover.
These problems are compounded because many 15-passenger vans do not have seat belts or occupants do not wear them because they view the vehicle like a bus. This is unfortunate because only 14% of the fatalities associated with 15-passenger vans involved occupants who were wearing seat belts. People should always buckle up when given the opportunity.
While the manufacturer may be liable for the defective design of these vehicles, there are other factors and parties that often contribute to 15-passenger van accidents. If the organization that uses the vehicle does not carefully monitor proper tire pressure and make sure that tires on the vehicle are not old, this can easily lead to a rollover accident. Improper tire pressure is a common cause of fatal accidents involving 15-passenger vans. The use of a spare tire that is old is also dangerous because it is not just the wear on the tire but the age of the tire that can contribute to a blowout.
The organization that entrusts a driver to operate the vehicle and the driver can also be liable for serious accidents involving 15-passenger vans. These vehicles are much more difficult to drive so it is not a good idea to have inexperienced drivers operating them. The vehicles are longer and heavier than most passenger vehicles so they require more space when turning and increased reliance on side-view mirrors. 15-passenger vans also do not respond as well to sudden steering maneuvers and require longer braking time. The NHTSA specifically recommends that drivers have special training and experience operating these vehicles, but many organizations use organization members with no training or experience. An inexperienced or distracted driver, such as a driver talking on his cell phone or to others in the van, can also be partially responsible for 15 passenger van accidents.
If you or someone you love is seriously injured or killed in a 15-passenger van accident or auto accident, the compassionate, van accident attorneys.