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May 14, 2003

Stability Control for Inherently Dangerous 15-Passenger Vans Falls Short; Vehicles Must be Redesigned

Statement by Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook

The General Motors (GM) announcement today that it will install stability enhancement systems on its model year 2004 15-passenger vans is no substitute for a full redesign of these deathtraps. Little more than tin cans originally designed to haul cargo, the vans have devastated entire church and school communities when they have rolled over in deadly crashes. Further, GM is not even retrofitting its existing 15-passenger vans on the highway.

GM should have added stability control systems to all its rollover-prone vehicles – including vans – a long time ago. This system won’t fix the fundamental hazards that are designed into these vans and are evident in crashes. The vehicles have extremely weak roofs that crush in a rollover, jeopardizing the heads and spines of passengers and opening large portals for ejection. They also have weak doors and poor safety belt systems that fail to keep passengers in place during a crash.

Last fall we called on all manufacturers to retrofit, or recall altogether, the vans that are currently on the highways, so as to prevent rollover. GM’s action shows that these top-heavy, lumbering behemoths, which have killed more than 400 people, are not a proper vehicle for people – either their occupants or others on the highways. More people should not have to die before these dangerous vans are truly fixed.

Note: Joan Claybrook was administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration from 1977-1981.

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