There are a lot of vans on the road, in Massachusetts and around the country. Parents use them to shuffle the kids to soccer practice and construction workers use them to carry their tools. Most of us don’t think of vans as especially dangerous and may take little note of them on the road.
But, not all the vans are created equal. Larger vans designed to carry more passengers are more dangerous than the minivans that may be common in your neighborhood. In fact, these vehicles are so dangerous that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued a number of alerts across the past two decades aimed at reducing 15-passenger van accidents and fatalities.
Risks Associated with Larger Vans
Not Every Driver is Prepared to Handle a 15-Passenger Van
One reason 15-passenger vans are more dangerous than other vehicles is that they are at the upper edge of vehicles that do not require a commercial driver’s license. In fact, under federal law, a commercial driver’s license is required to operate a 16-passenger van. While a commercial driver’s license is not required for the 15-passenger van, the difference in size and weight between a 15-passenger van and the 16-passenger van is obviously fairly small. In fact, the NHTSA says that it would be “ideal” for the operator of a 15-passenger van to hold a commercial driver’s license.
But, with that only a recommendation and not a requirement, many drivers operate 15-passenger vans without the experience necessary to maneuver them safely. These vans are larger and longer than standard passenger vehicles, meaning that they turn differently, require more space to merge or change lanes, and may have different and larger blind spots than the typical passenger vehicle.
The Size and Weight of the Vehicle Creates Risks
Other risks associated with 15-passenger vans relate to the construction of the vehicle itself. For example, the structure of these vehicles makes them particularly vulnerable to rollover accidents. Of course, that risk is increased when a novice driver, who is unprepared to adapt to operating the larger vehicle with a different center of gravity, is at the wheel.
Because these vans are larger and heavier, they typically require additional braking time. But, drivers inexperienced with larger vehicles may not anticipate the need to brake earlier, and other vehicles on the road may not be aware that a 15-passenger van will require more space to stop than other passenger vehicles.
A Crowded Van is More Dangerous
The number of passengers in the vehicle and where they are seated can also impact safe operation of the vehicle. Of course, you should never squeeze extra passengers into any vehicle, including a 15-passenger van. But, operators of these larger vehicles should recognize that even when you are within the prescribed capacity, more passengers means greater danger. Older research from the NHTSA showed that a 15-passenger van with 10 or more passengers was about three times as likely to roll over as one carrying fewer than five people.
In part, that may be because of the seating arrangements inside the van. It is recommended that when the van is not full, passengers should be seated from the front back. No one should be seated behind the rear axle unless all seats further forward have been filled.
Safety Tips for 15 Passenger Vans
First and most important, do not attempt to operate a 15-passenger van on the road unless you are confident that you have the experience necessary to do so safely. If you are just learning to drive a large van, do so in areas where traffic is light, and do not fill the van with passengers.
On the road, leave more distance between you and vehicles in front of you, since it will take longer to slow or stop the vehicle. Be aware that you will need to rely more heavily on your mirrors and be conscious of blind spots. Make sure everyone in the vehicle is seated as far forward as possible, and that all passengers wear seat belts.
It’s also especially important to ensure that the vehicle is in good maintenance. For instance brake wear will further increase the time it takes to stop the vehicle. Tires are supporting more weight, and a tire blowout in a large van is more likely to result in the vehicle rolling over.
Injured in a Large Van Accident?
If you have been injured in a traffic accident with a 15-passenger van, or were injured as the driver or a passenger in a 15-passenger van, you may be entitled to compensation. Determining liability in this type of accident can be complicated, and multiple factors may be in play. Therefore, an experienced motor vehicle accident attorney can be your best resource. To learn more about possible responsible parties, whether you may be deemed partially responsible for the accident, and what type of compensation may be available, schedule a free consultation right now.
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