15-Passenger Van Safety (such as It Is)

Mike Solowiow
by Mike Solowiow

As I highlighted in the Chevy Express review, I believe the vehicle is inherently unsafe. The Ford E-Series and Dodge Ram Van (RIP: 2002), aren't much better. From 1990 to 2006, over 2700 people have died in extended van accidents, they majority of which were rollovers (seat belt use is an important variable). In 2002, The National Transportation Safety Board wrote an open letter to Bill Ford and Rick Wagoner, stating "Heavily loaded 15-passenger vans are particularly susceptible to rollover… Simulations conducted for the NHTSA research illustrated the adverse effects that a fully loaded 15-passenger van can have on the vehicle’s handling properties and rollover propensity. Fully loading or nearly loading a 15-passenger van causes the center of gravity to move rearwardand upward, which increases the vehicle’s rollover propensity and could increase the potential for driver loss of control in emergency maneuvers." Ford and GM declined to make a $300m (per design) modification to the rear end to enhance van safety. They did, however, add stability control systems, as requested. While NHTSA stats show the accident and fatality rate for these vehicles are falling, it's still proportionately higher than for other passenger vehicles. Both the Ford and Chevy score a measly two and three stars respectively in roll-over tendency. These are outmoded designs whose active safety is woeful inadequate– especially when you consider their cargo.

Mike Solowiow
Mike Solowiow

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  • Anonymous Anonymous on Jun 19, 2008
    RobertSD : June 18th, 2008 at 9:46 pm 15-passenger van safety is not much different from SUV safety: if the driver is competent, everyone will be ok. The problem is these church groups or boy scout troops or day care centers load 14 people into the van and let someone who can barely maneuver a Civic without bumping into something drive this behemoth of a van whose handling is much worse and whose propensity to stay on all four wheels is lower than any other vehicle on the road. I’ve never heard of a crash with these types of vehicles where the driver wasn’t speeding or trying to do a maneuver that was an over-reaction to a situation - it’s always driver error, ultimately. IMO you are generalizing a bit too much. A good friend and roommate in college used to drive his churches van precisely because he had a commercial license with just about every endorsement under the sun(as he put it, he had a license to drive everything but a helicopter). The only other two people that I've known to drive these vans on a regular basis were bus drivers during the week. It may be true of businesses like hotels and the such, but I think a better generalization is that Churches and other non-profit types that use these vans take the safety of the van's passengers very seriously and use the best drivers that they can get. Maybe the accidents occur when these vans are driven by inexperienced drivers, but the only personal knowledge that I have has been the people driving these vans are typically very experienced drivers. As anybody who knows me could tell you, I think the government is the last institution you want fixing a problem, but to say that these vans are safe as compared to other vehicles on the road is ignoring the higher accident rate and the inherent instability of the vehicles.
  • Windswords Windswords on Jun 19, 2008

    "Ever ridden in a modern Minivan (Odyssey comes to mind)? Very easy to drive, next to impossible to flip. Sure, they can’t tow much… or at all.. but why not take this model as a template? Stretch the wheels out, widen the track, strengthen the unibody platform to be safe for 15 passengers (put in a stronger engine), an you have a relatively safe (and Comfortable) people mover." The Odyssey is based off a CAR. So no wonder it drives like a car. If your idea of building a 15 passenger blow up of the Odyssey was feasible, then Honda would've done it. Same for any other maker.

  • Offroadinfrontier Offroadinfrontier on Jun 19, 2008

    I'm fully aware of what the Odyssey is based off of. But just because they HAVEN'T doesn't mean they CAN'T, so never use that as an excuse. We all know damn well that there are plenty of cars that manufacturers CAN make but DON'T because of perceived lack of profit. Maybe Honda chose to stay OUT of the 15-passenger market for other reasons, who knows. My use of the Odyssey was purely as an example of a current platform (5-seater) being modified into a comfortable, safe, profitable 8-seater platform with a hella-lot of interior space. And whose to say that a manufacturer CAN'T stretch this platform even farther? Or offer a 15-passenger unibody? Give me some actual proof that this is physically impossible to do safely and I'll agree. But I still say the only reason 15-passengers are on truck platforms is because its cheap & easy to roll out (and allows for towing).

  • Rtz Rtz on Jun 19, 2008

    It's been a known problem and a hidden, unspoken secret for a long time: http://www.vanangels.org/