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GM Moves to Cut Vans' Rollover Risk

May 14, 2003|Michael Ellis | From Reuters

DETROIT — General Motors Corp. said Tuesday that it would take steps to avoid rollovers in its 15-passenger vans, six months after U.S. safety investigators recommended that Detroit automakers improve the vehicles.

GM said it would install vehicle stability enhancement systems, which use sensors to detect wheel skid and apply brakes to maintain control, as standard equipment in the GMC Savana and Chevrolet Express vans in the 2004 model year, which begins this summer.

"While vehicle stability enhancement systems do not directly prevent rollover crashes, they may help drivers avoid the conditions that cause them," said Robert Lange, GM executive director of structure and safety integration.

Last November, the National Transportation Safety Board, concerned about rollovers, asked U.S. regulators, as well as GM and Ford Motor Co., to improve the safety of 15-passenger vans, which often are used by community groups and colleges.

Two National Highway Traffic Safety Administration advisories in the last two years, prompted by high-profile crashes, have warned about the rollover risk of 15-passenger vans when they are fully loaded.

"We're delighted that they are addressing this issue," said NHTSA spokesman Rae Tyson.

Ford spokeswoman Carolyn Brown said the automaker was studying various technologies to improve the stability of its 15-passenger vans. Brown said Ford recommends the use of safety belts and that drivers recognize that the vans handle differently from cars. Ford is the biggest seller of 15-passenger vans, ahead of GM.

According to highway safety data, large vans are involved in more single-vehicle accidents involving rollovers than are other passenger vehicles.

There are about 500,000 15-passenger vans on the road now, and the latest federal statistics show that at least 424 people have been killed and hundreds of others hurt in rollover crashes involving the vehicles since 1990.

Both GM and Ford say the vans are safe.

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