WEST PALM BEACH, Fla – If you have read the paper or watched a newscast, you have heard of the auto accident that left eight members of a Florida church dead. That accident has brought safety issues with a specific type of van back into the light.
As of yet, no one knows what caused the passenger van to slide off of the road and into a ravine, but the accident has re-exposed safety issues with large passenger vans. The van involved in this particular incident, a 2000 Dodge Ram wagon, is known to have run a stop sign and lose control. It is the difficulty in regaining control of this type of vehicle that has safety officials and advocates revisiting known safety issues.
Chances are high that you will recognize the type of vehicle that officials and advocates are concerned about. The large, box-shaped vans hold 15 passengers and are popular with religious organizations, colleges, and other large groups. But what is wrong with the vehicles?
According to Joan Claybrook, a past head of the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, “Some insurance companies refuse to insure them because it’s so dangerous.” There are numerous issues in the vehicles that make them susceptible to accidents that ultimately result in fatality. Those issues include the width of the vans, their height, the structure of the seats, and the often lack of availability and/or quality of seatbelts.
Officials have been warning the public about the hazards of this type of van for more than 10 years. Organizations utilizing these vans tend to overload them, increasing the risk of rollover and the inability to bring the van under control in an emergency situation. Anyone riding in one of these vans is urged to wear a seatbelt and, if a potential passenger notices that the van will be holding more than 15 people, find another ride.
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