Federal transportation officials are investigating a 15-passenger van accident that killed eight members of a Florida church.
According to a news report in The Republic, officials are still looking into what caused the van to plunge into a ravine on a dark stretch of rural roadway on April 13, 2015.
But the tragedy is giving much-needed exposure to repeated warnings issued about the 15-passenger vans that are popular with houses of worship, schools and other nonprofits.
The van involved in the most recent crash had 18 occupants and was considered overloaded. Some occupants may not have been buckled up.
The Danger of 15-Passenger Vans
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has warned the public over the years about the potential instability of the 15-passenger vans.
NHTSA has specifically issued alerts to church groups, schools and other organizations that use these vehicles to transport small groups because they are an economical way to do so.
However, there is a bigger price to pay because these vans are extremely susceptible to fatal accidents.
Their height and width, propensity to roll over, lack of structural integrity of seats and poor seatbelt quality — all make them death traps.
Older models are even worse because they lack stability control and tire pressure-monitoring services available in newer vans.
Just between 2004 and 2010, about 521 people have died in crashes involving 15-passenger vans.
Protecting Victims’ Rights
As auto product liability lawyers who have represented 15-passenger van accident victims and families that have lost loved ones in these tragedies, we believe that automakers knowingly put these defective vehicles in the market – just because people will buy them.
For a few hundred dollars more, automakers could have made these vehicles substantially safer and help save hundreds, if not thousands, of lives that have been lost and catastrophic injuries that have been suffered.
These vans are not just used by individuals who own these vans or rent them for family trips. Several educational institutions, church and community groups, even childcare centers and some schools use these vans for transporting groups.
This must be stopped at once.
Groups that knowingly use these dangerous and defective vans must be held liable for their actions. It’s about time for our federal officials to deem these dangerous vehicles illegal on our roadways.