The Danger of 15-Passenger Vans

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Larger passenger vans handle very differently compared to smaller passenger vehicles because, typically, they are longer higher and wider. These vans, commonly known as 15-passenger vans due to their ability to transport as many people, are used widely by non-profit organizations, colleges, universities, sports teams, senior centers, churches and childcare centers. This is despite the fact that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued safety warnings about the dangerous design of these vehicles that make them prone to catastrophic rollover crashes.

These 15-passenger vans can be dangerous, particularly in the hands of inexperienced or reckless drivers. These vans require additional reliance on side mirrors for changing lanes, additional room, longer braking distances and present a higher risk of rollover crashes if they are not properly operated and maintained.

15-Passenger Vans and Rollovers

NHTSA’s research shows that 15-passenger vans, by virtue of their design, are more prone to rollover crashes, particularly ones that result in multiple fatalities. Some of the findings of a 2009 NHTSA study include:

  • In 2007, fatalities to occupants of 15-passenger vans increased nearly 20 percent from the previous year.
  • About 25 percent of fatally injured occupants of 15-passenger vans over the last five years were drivers.
  • The median age group for the drivers killed in these van accidents is 45 to 54 and the median age group for passengers is 25 to 34.
  • In 2007, there were 45 fatalities in 15-passenger vans that rolled over, 73 percent more than the previous year.
  • Also, 80 percent of fatally injured van occupants in rollovers in the past five years were unrestrained by seatbelts.

What Causes Passenger Van Rollovers?

Safety analysts say that the risk of rollovers increases significantly when the number of occupants increases from fewer than five to 10 or more. In fact, 15-passenger vans with 10 or more occupants had a rollover rate in single vehicle crashes that was nearly three times the rate of those that were highly loaded.

This is because loading the 15-passenger van causes the center of gravity to shift rearward and upward increasing the likelihood of a rollover. The shift in the center of gravity will also increase the potential for loss of vehicle control when the driver takes sudden evasive action such as avoiding an animal or debris on the roadway.

Preventing Tragic Van Rollover Accidents

Summer is particularly a busy time for road travel. Camping trips and other group travel put more 15-passenger vans on our roadways. Safety experts say the best thing to do is to avoid using these 15-passenger vans for group travel. However, if you must travel in these vans or drive one, officials have several tips to prevent catastrophic rollover crashes:

  • Tire pressure: Always ensure that the tires are properly inspected before each use. Van tires must be properly inflated and the tread should not be worn down. Excessively worn or improperly inflated tires can lead to a rollover.
  • Driver experience: Anyone who operates a 15-passenger van should be properly trained and experienced. The driver must have a valid license of the state of residence. A commercial driver’s license is recommended as 15-passenger van drivers need additional training due to the different handling of these vans.
  • Driver attention: The driver should be well rested and attentive at all times. Using a cell phone or other types of distractions such as eating drinking or talking to passengers should be absolutely avoided.
  • Safe speed: Driving at a safe speed depending on driving conditions is critical. Drivers should never exceed the posted speed limit. If the roadways are slick or icy, slow down. It is a fact that 15-passenger vans do not respond well to abrupt steering maneuvers and also need additional braking time.
  • People and cargo: At no point should more than 15 people be allowed to ride in a 15-passenger van. When the van is not full, passengers should sit in those seats that are in front of the rear axle. Also, cargo should be placed in front of the rear axle. Do not place any luggage or cargo on the roof. Do not tow anything behind the van. Take a look at the owner’s manual for maximum weight of passengers and cargo. At all times, avoid overloading the van.
  • The Importance of Seatbelts: All occupants must wear seatbelts at all times. Seatbelts must be inspected regularly and any missing, broken or damaged belts and buckles must be fixed. Statistics show that an unrestrained 15-passenger van occupant involved in a single-vehicle crash is approximately three times as likely to be killed as a restrained occupant.

Protecting Your Rights

If you or your family member has been involved in a 15-passenger van rollover crash, please contact the experienced auto product liability attorneys at Bisnar | Chase to protect your legal rights. In cases where defective manufacturing or design caused or contributed to the incident, the automaker or the manufacturer of the defective part can be held liable.

For example, our firm settled a lawsuit with Ford Motor Company and a rental car agency that was involved in a fatal 15-passenger van accident. The van, in this case, was transporting a group of friends from Los Angeles to Las Vegas for a birthday party. The van, a Ram 350, rolled over and seatbelts failed. A confidential settlement was reached involving multiple families. If you or a loved one has been involved in a similar crash involving a 15-passenger van, please understand that you do have legal rights.



Young Football Player Killed in Accident Caused by Tire Tread Separation

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Even Perez, 10, was killed in a car accident in California after the vehicle in which he was a passenger went out of control and crashed, the morning of September 15, 2012. According to a news account in The Hanford Sentinel, the fatal SUV rollover crash occurred on the 5 Freeway south of Derrick Avenue near Coalinga. California Highway Patrol officials say that 2001 Mitsubishi SUV was traveling at about 70 mph when the tread on the left rear tire separated.

The SUV overturned into the center median and three out of the six passengers, including Even, were ejected. Even died at the scene. His mother, Alma Lopez-Diaz, 37, and four other passengers were transported to a Fresno hospital. They were identified as Even’s three siblings and one other child – 13-year-old Eddie Lopez, Christian Cervantes, 9, Alex Alukya and Rosemary Perez, both 12.


Man Killed in Monrovia Car Accident

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Jimmy Hughes Jr., 37, was killed in a Los Angeles County car accident after he lost control of his SUV and crashed into another vehicle. According to a City News Service report, the fatal crash occurred on the 134 Freeway near Harvey Drive in Monrovia, the morning of September 14, 2012. California Highway Patrol officials say Hughes was westbound on the freeway when he lost control of his Chevy Suburban SUV, which went off the shoulder, across the median and into eastbound lanes. The SUV then collided with a Toyota Solara and overturned. Hughes sustained fatal injuries. The driver of the Toyota Solara suffered non-life-threatening injuries. The investigation is ongoing.

I offer my deepest condolences to the family members and friends of Jimmy Hughes Jr. for their tragic and heartbreaking loss. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.


Man Killed in San Bernardino County Rollover Crash

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David Alex Trujillo, 26, was killed and two others – 21-year-old Frankie J. Ruiz of Colton and a 3-year-old Rialto boy – were injured in a rollover accident, the night of September 8, 2012. According to The Press-Enterprise, the fatal crash occurred along Highway 259 near Highland Avenue in San Bernardino. California Highway Patrol officials say the southbound 1993 Jeep Cherokee veered to the right and struck the curb causing it to roll over. The vehicle then hit the guardrail and tumbled down a steep embankment. Trujillo was ejected and died at the scene. Ruiz sustained major injuries while the boy escaped with minor injuries. Officials suspect that Trujillo and Ruiz were not wearing their seatbelts. The investigation into the cause of this crash is ongoing.

I offer my deepest condolences to the family members and many friends of David Alex Trujillo. My thoughts and prayers are also with the two injured victims. I wish them the very best for a speedy and complete recovery.


One Person Injured in Vehicle Rollover Accident

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A person suffered major injuries in a rollover crash after a pickup truck went out of control, the evening of July 5, 2012. According to a news report in The Ventura County Star, the injury accident occurred near South Mountain Road east of Santa Paula and north of Moorpark. One victim was transported to a local hospital with severe injuries. Officials are still investigating the cause of this accident.

My thoughts and prayers are with the injured victim of this car accident. I wish this person the very best for a speedy and complete recovery.


Ford Explorer SUVs Investigated for Power Steering Issues

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Federal Safety regulators with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSAS) are looking into complaints regarding auto defects involving steering issues with Ford Explorers. According to The Associated Press, so far, 15 drivers have complained that their 2011 Explorer SUV suddenly lost its power steering assist. When this occurs, the SUVs can become difficult to control. Officials are trying to determine if there will be a safety recall of the 83,000 potentially defective Explorers.

Dangers of Power Steering Failures

Some drivers who have reported the issue say that a warning message appeared on the instrument panel before the power steering failed. In a few of the cases, restarting the SUV solved the problem. It does not appear that anyone has been injured or killed as a result of these auto defects. It is absolutely essential to have the power steering working properly in a vehicle. When this feature fails it may become difficult to turn or even change lanes. Drivers who are experiencing issues with their steering should immediately slow down and pull over. These are flaws that could end in serious injury car accidents.


Orange County Woman Killed in SUV Rollover Accident

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Blanca P. Estela, 39, of Santa Ana, was fatally injured in an SUV rollover accident after officials say a tire blew out and the vehicle rolled over. According to an Associated Press news article, the rollover crash occurred a little after noon on June 20, 2012 on the northbound Interstate 15 near Sloan, Nevada. State troopers say a rear tire on the 2006 Dodge SUV failed before the vehicle swerved and rolled over on the freeway shoulder. Estela was pronounced dead at the scene. A 9-year-old girl, who was a passenger in the vehicle, was airlifted with critical injuries while four others suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

My thoughts and prayers are with the family members and many friends of Blanca Estela, who are mourning her terrible loss. My heart also goes out to the young girl who has been critically injured as well as the four victims who have suffered injuries in this crash. I wish them all the very best for a speedy and complete recovery.


Cooper Recalls SUV Tires for Tread Separation Issues

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Cooper Tire & Rubber Company has issued a defective product recall for 10,236 radial SUV and light truck tires sold under its own and three customer names for possible tread separation issues. According to a news report in Tire Business, the recalled tires may have been manufactured with contaminated rubber in the tread compounds, which could result in tread separation. In a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Cooper officials said that they received reports from several dealers regarding the tires developing “early life tread separations when placed in service.”


Woman Killed in Orange County Ford Bronco Rollover Accident

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Yoeen Sauseda, 22, was fatally injured in a Santa Ana car accident when the Ford Bronco in which she was a passenger overturned on the freeway, the morning of June 3, 2012. According to a news report in The Orange County Register, the rollover crash occurred on the southbound 55 near Dyer Road in Santa Ana. Officials say the driver of the Bronco, Erasmo Molina, 69, swerved to the right causing his Bronco to roll over. Sauseda was ejected from the vehicle and was fatally injured. Molina, Armando Angeles, 27, and Vanesa Sauseda, 18, suffered serious injuries but survived the crash. Officials state tire tread separation may have caused Molina to lose control of the Bronco.

My heart goes out to the family and friends of Yoeen Sauseda following this tragic rollover accidents. My thoughts and prayers are also with the others who were seriously injured here. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.


One Killed, One Critically Injured in Rancho Palos Verdes Rollover Accident

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A man in his 30s was killed and his passenger was critically injured in a Los Angeles car accident after their SUV went out of control and rolled over. According to a news report in the Daily Breeze, the rollover accident occurred early morning on May 18, 2012 on Palos Verdes Drive West near the Point Vicente Interpretive Center in Ranchos Palos Verdes. Police say the 2010 Range Rover SUV was headed west when it crashed into the center divider in an area where the road curves.

Both men were ejected onto the roadway. The driver died and the passenger was transported to an area hospital with life-threatening injuries. Investigators are planning to examine the vehicle’s data recorder to determine if the driver was speeding and whether the two men were buckled up at the time of the crash. It is not yet clear if alcohol was a factor in this fatal crash.

I offer my deepest condolences to the family members and friends of the deceased rollover accident victim. My thoughts and prayers are also with the critically injured passenger. I wish him the very best for a speedy and complete recovery.


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