Background. Does your church own a 15-passenger van? If so, you're not alone. There are more than 500,000 of them on the road, and many are owned by churches. Church treasurers should be aware of two recent "safety advisories" issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that raise serious questions about the safety of these vehicles. Unfamiliarity with these advisories can expose a church, and the members of its board, to astronomical liability in the event of a church van accident that results in death or serious injury.
Why are 15-passenger vans dangerous? For many reasons, including the following: (1) They are designed to carry cargo, not people, and so they do not comply with many of the basic safety requirements that apply to passenger cars or the stricter federal requirements that apply to school buses. (2) They become top-heavy and prone to rollovers when fully loaded or occupied. (3) The side windows of most 15-passenger vans are made of tempered, not laminated, glass. Tempered glass is far less likely to keep occupants from being ejected in an accident.