Last month, a 15-passenger church van crashed in Glades County Florida and killed eight passengers. The crash occurred about 60 miles from the Fort Pierce Church. According to reports, the van crashed after the van’s driver missed a stop sign at an unlit T-intersection, which was surrounded by farmland. The van apparently plowed through four lanes of traffic and fell into a shallow canal. Eight passengers died, and another eight suffered injuries, as well as the church’s pastor. The van had apparently been overloaded with eight more passengers than the bus’ limit of 15.
Following the accident, the Florida Highway Patrol and the National Transportation Safety Board sent investigators to the scene to investigate the accident. For years, these types of vehicles have supposedly raised safety concerns. A spokesperson for the NHTSA said that investigators will look into “whether the unlit T-intersection set amid farmland had a history of accidents, whether the van’s safety features worked as they should have, the 18 occupants’ use of seatbelts and any factors affecting the driver.”
Safety advocates claim that these 15-passenger vans can be dangerous and are susceptible to crashes. Concerns with these vehicles include the size, height and width of the vehicles, structural integrity, availability of seat belts, lack of stability controls, and inability to monitor tire pressure.
NHTSA Reminds Drivers of Dangers with 15-Passenger Vans
The NHTSA recognizes there are certain dangers involved with these types of vehicles. Particularly, these vehicles are sensitive to loading and prone to rollover crashes when vehicles are overloaded. Research shows that “overloading 15-passenger vans both increases rollover risk and makes the vehicle more unstable in any handling maneuvers.” According to federal statistics, between 2004 through 2010, more than 500 people have died in crashes involving 15-passenger vehicles. Many of these involved rollover crashes.
With the summer months rapidly approaching, the use of 15-passenger vans will increase significantly. The NHTSA wants to remind the public to take proper precautions to guard against possible rollover crashes. Safety tips for trips in 15-passenger vans include:
- Do not overload the vehicle;
- Regularly maintain and service the van, including ensuring that tires are properly inflated and having suspension and steering components inspected;
- Only have experienced drivers operate these vehicles; and
- Make sure that passengers wear seat belts; 88 percent of passengers killed in 15-passenger vehicle rollover crashes were not wearing their seat belts.
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