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Passenger Vans Suffer Safety Criticisms, Face Class-Action Suit

Fifteen-passenger vans have suffered years of scathing criticism from U.S. government and private safety groups for their propensity to lose stability when fully loaded and their high rate of rollovers when compared to other vehicles.

They are now being similarly censured in Canada, with one woman - who lost a son when the Ford E-Series van he was riding in collided with another vehicle and rolled over - telling a Canadian Transportation official who is studying ways to more closely regulate them that, "The time for studying and debating passed a long time ago."

A class-action lawsuit has just been filed in British Columbia against Ford, with the plaintiffs' attorney seeking a refund for every Canadian who owns one of the vans. The suit is expected to expand to all 10 Canadian provinces.

An American watchdog group, the Safety Forum, states that the vans are "high-riding death traps" and "among the most lethal vehicles on the road today." According to Safety Forum, 15-passenger vans have more rollover accidents than any other type of vehicle; moreover, they have the highest rollover rate of any vehicle when involved in an accident with a single other vehicle, rolling over more than 50 percent of the time.

These criticisms are echoed by the NHTSA, which issued a consumer advisory concerning them in 2001 that warned of their propensity to roll over when fully loaded. The agency states that when the vans are fully occupied, their center of gravity shifts rearward and upward, which decreases their stability appreciably in a traffic emergency and increases the likelihood for the driver to lose vehicle control.

The NHTSA states that more than 1,100 people have died in single-vehicle accidents involving the vans over a recent 10-year period. Four more people died in an early October accident in Georgia when their passenger van - A Dodge Ram Wagon - blew a tire and rolled over.

Related Resource: "Class Action Addresses 15-Passenger Vans' Safety Problems" October 5, 2010

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