15 Passenger Vans: Still Dangerous After All These Years

Saturday’s 15-passenger van crash that killed six and injured eight members of a Bronx church is a somber reminder that the vehicle remains the only one in the U.S. fleet today that is deadly if used as a 15-passenger van. NHTSA long-ago whiffed on recalling the unstable vehicles, instead relying on manufacturers’ good intentions and consumer warnings, and the preventable carnage continues.

The 1997 Ford Econoline van, loaded with 14 members of the Joy Fellowship Christian Assemblies and their luggage, was on its way to a church event in Schenectady, NY when the left rear tire failed on the New York Thruway. The van rolled over, scattering occupants and suitcases on the median.

New Study Confirms Effectiveness of ESC

Reprinted from The Safety Record, V3, Issue 3, May / June 2006

Washington, D.C. - A new University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute study confirms the results of earlier studies worldwide: Electronic Stability Control is remarkably effective in preventing single vehicle crashes-especially SUV rollovers.

Paul E. Green and John Woodrooffe presented their findings at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's government-industry meeting last month. Like other researchers from Sweden to Japan, they found that ESC can significantly reduce the risk of a single vehicle crash. Using 1995-2003 data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and the General Estimates System (GES), Green and Woodrooffe constructed a case-controlled study, comparing accidents of vehicles of similar makes and models, with and without ESC, in loss-of-control crashes-such as single-vehicle crashes, run-off-the-road crashes, rollovers, and crashes in which the roads were not dry.

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A Brief History of Electronic Stability Controls and their Applications

Electronic Stability Control (ESC) systems are still only on a small percentage of U.S. models yet they offer significant improvements in performance by sensing when a vehicle is about to lose control and intervene to keep the vehicle stable. ESC systems, which are known under a host of other acronyms and various trade names, work by using ABS brakes as a foundation and with the addition of sensors measure steering wheel angle, yaw rate and turning force. Software algorithms interpret the sensor data and determine whether the vehicle is travelling the way it should given the driver input. If not, the system automatically activates the brakes on one or more wheels or activates the throttle slightly to bring the car back in line.