Passenger vans can be an affordable and suitable alternative to buses for Lehigh Valley schools, clubs and other organizations. These vehicles aren’t the same as vans sold to large families. Interstate drivers paid for operating commercial vans, with a nine-passenger to 15-passenger capacity, are subject to rules set down by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wants the public to understand risks associated with these vehicles to prevent van accidents. The government studied fatal 15-passenger van crashes over a 12-year period. Researchers learned about 60 percent of 1,111 fatalities between 1990 and 2002 were the result of single-vehicle collisions — over 80 percent of deaths in these accidents were due to rollovers.
Perhaps even more disturbing was the finding that over three-fourths of van occupants who died were improperly restrained or weren’t wearing safety belts. Restrained occupants in 15-passengers vans are three times less likely than unrestrained occupants to be ejected from a vehicle during an accident.
Speed and passenger loading can increase or decrease the chances of a rollover. Fifteen-passenger vans at half capacity are more than twice as likely to roll over as vans at full capacity or less than half capacity. Vans traveling at under 50 miles per hour were five times less like to roll over than faster passenger vans.
NHTSA officials caution passenger vehicle owners and operators to check tire size, pressure and wear before any trip. Mechanical repairs and replacements should follow manufacturer recommendations. Avoid overloading, which can destabilize a vehicle, and make sure all passengers are securely restrained.
People who ride in passenger vans may assume the good reputation of an organization is enough to guarantee safety on a trip. Victims of commercial vehicle accidents and their families have the right to file civil claims against vehicle owners, operators or other third parties whose negligence cause serious injuries or deaths.