Two young men died in a van accident on I-84 in Danbury, Connecticut in early November 2011. The van was filled with 11 high-school and college-aged boys returning to school after visiting family. The van went off the freeway and slid down an embankment, killing the driver and one passenger and wounding the nine other passengers.
Authorities are still investigating the cause of the car accident. This tragedy demonstrates how dangerous passenger vans can be. Although passenger vans are prone to rollover accidents, people can take steps to improve their safety in these vehicles.
Why are Passenger Vans Dangerous?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has documented that passenger vans are higher risk for rollover accidents than other types of vehicles. The National Safety Transportation Board (NTSB) examined passenger van crash data and has issued reports detailing safety concerns with passenger vans, including:
- When a 15-passenger van is loaded with people, it causes the center of gravity to shift upward, increasing the likelihood of a rollover accident
- When a 15-passenger van has 10 or more passengers, the likelihood of a rollover is three times greater than when it has fewer than 10 passengers
- Passenger vans are more likely to rollover at speeds exceeding 50 miles per hour and on curved roads
- Improperly inflated tires increase the likelihood that a passenger van will rollover because they change the amount of control the driver has over the vehicle. An NTSB study discovered that 74 percent of all passenger vans had improperly inflated tires, compared to only 34 percent of cars with improperly inflated tires
- 15-passenger vans lack the structural reinforcement behind the driver's seat that federal law requires in cars and school buses
Drivers inexperienced in handling larger vehicles often attempt to drive passenger vans, increasing the likelihood of a rollover accident
Improving Passenger Van Safety
There are things that people can do to reduce the likelihood of an accident in a passenger van:
- Properly inflate the tires for optimum handling
- Make sure the driver has experience driving larger vehicles
- Ensure the driver is well-rested and alert
- Inspect the van before every trip
- Never overload the van
- Make sure each passenger wears a safety belt
Passenger vans may seem like a good option for transporting a large group of people, but unless everyone in the van takes safety precautions, the trip could end in disaster similar to the one that occurred on the Connecticut portion of I-85 in Danbury. If you or a loved one have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, an experienced car accident attorney in your area can help you understand your right to money damages to cover your crash-related expenses.