Fifteen-passenger vans have been around for nearly thirty years. They became popular in the 1990s and there are now about 500,000 on the road in the U.S.
Unfortunately, there are numerous safety issues with this type of vehicle. The fatality rate for passengers is more than for passengers in other types of motor vehicle accidents.
In fact, the death rate for occupants of 15-passenger vans was higher than the combined total for all other types of passenger vehicles. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, there were 149 deaths per million registered vehicles in 15-pasenger vans from 2005 to 2009. The corresponding figure for all other vehicles was 121.
It’s not just that 15-passenger vans are bigger than other passenger vehicles. Fifteen-passenger vans also have high centers of gravity. This makes them less stable than smaller vehicles and therefore a potential challenge to drive, especially for inexperienced drivers.
And then there is the matter of tire pressure. If the tires are not properly inflated, that can decrease the van’s stability and increase the chances of a crash.
Underinflation of tires is bad enough. It’s even worse when the tires are defective.
A tragic example of this came in a recent California case. On November 10, a California jury found Ford Motor Co. liable for $73 million in damages in a wrongful death case involving the crash of a 15-passenger van that killed two members of a church group and injured two others.
The jury in that case found that the Econoline van made by Ford had a tread separation problem that Ford should have known about. Ford should have known of the defect because Goodyear had notified Ford of an issue on the same type of tire a full two years before.
Source: “California Jury Smacks Ford for $73 Million in Tire Case,” Tire Review, 9-16-11