Shuttle buses, small transit companies, and rental vehicles are often the types of van that can hold 12 to 15 passengers. The convenience of the ability to carry so many passengers in an easy-to-drive vehicle is outstanding. Unfortunately, these vans are often incredibly unsafe.
Even the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has warned that these vehicles are not safe. Despite their unsafe designs, they are still frequently used. This means that passengers still rely upon these kinds of transportation, every day – and many of them do not know the risks these vehicles carry.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a van rollover or any other van accident, you might be entitled to compensation for injuries. That can include medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering compensation. If you are in Baltimore, then Bennett and Heyman, P.A., should be your lawyer of choice. Our attorneys have decades of practice in personal injury cases, and have helped thousands of clients over the years.
Passenger Van Rollover Accident Layers
15 passenger vans are some of the most dangerous passenger vehicles on the road today. The goal of using 15 passenger vans, or 12 passenger vans, is to transport as many people as you can without needing increased licensing or more complicated vehicles. Small buses, like those used in some schools, hold more than 15 passengers and require a different class of license to drive, but, in Maryland, 15 passenger vehicles can legally be driven by anyone with a normal license.
Unfortunately, the way that 15 passenger vans are designed is not safe. The primary designs of these vans use the same sort of suspension, engine, and general vehicle construction as many common pickup trucks. Instead of having a flatbed like a pickup, these vans have a closed back and are often a bit longer and wider to comfortably fit passengers. The most common designs include a front row of two seats, then three rows of three seats, and a rear row of four seats – or, alternatively, five rows of three seats.
This is a lot of passengers to fit in one vehicle. The vehicles are designed to hold the weight of passengers averaging 150 to 200 pounds, meaning that just the weight of the occupants themselves can be between one and one and a half tons. That does not even include the added weight of seating for each passenger. Often, these seats are raised so that everyone sits above the wheel wells.
Putting over a ton of passengers and seating above the wheel well means that these vehicles have a very high center of gravity. In a pickup truck, the weight being carried usually lays lower in the bed of the truck, but in passenger vans, the weight is very high. Since the passengers are also located very close together, the center of gravity is often very focused.
When a passenger van takes a sharp turn, or tries to avoid an accident, the entire vehicle has a chance of tipping over because of the center of gravity’s location. The NHTSA’s studies have shown that when a van holds more than five passengers, its rollover risk continues to grow. A full 15 person van has about three times the rollover risk of a van with only five passengers. These risks are even worse if the van is carrying luggage and other heavy objects alongside passengers, instead of in the trunk, behind the rear axle.
Other Safety Risks
Aside from the rollover risk, 12 and 15 passenger vans face other safety concerns.
Their use as transportation shuttles often is treated like the transportation on a bus. This means that rear passengers may not wear seatbelts, if the van is even has them available. In any accident, seatbelts can save lives and reduce the risk of injury. The NHTSA found that passenger van occupants without seatbelts are three times as likely to die in the event of a crash than those wearing seatbelts.
Tire pressure is an especially common error for those responsible for driving and maintaining passenger vans. The required tire pressure on vans is often higher than that required on normal cars and SUVs, partly because the vehicle is longer and larger, but also partly because of all of the weight on the rear tire. This often means that the rear tires are supposed to be inflated to a higher pressure than the front tires, but this is often neglected or misunderstood. Despite this tire pressure usually being listed in the owner’s manual and inside the driver’s door frame, drivers still get their tire pressure wrong. This can lead to problems in quick maneuvers or blowouts on the road.
Drivers of 12 and 15 passenger vehicles do not need a special license to actually operate these vans. They might need a commercial license to drive as part of their job, but these licenses cover cars, trucks, and vans. Additional training and licensure is not required for vehicles that hold less than 16 passengers. That means that the drivers are often no more experienced on the road than the average driver, and may make poor driving decisions. On top of this, the companies that hire them may have made poor hiring decisions, putting drivers with bad records or records of DUI on staff.
Compensation May be Available With the Help of A Baltimore Lawyer
Whether you were injured while inside of a van as a passenger, or you were injured in an accident with a van, compensation may be available for your injuries. Delivery, construction, and utility vans often use similar vehicles, but without the seats in the back. Those drivers have deadlines to meet and may speed to meet them, but still face similar rollover risks as passenger vans.
If you or a loved one has been injured by a van due to someone else’s negligent driving, you may be entitled to compensation for the expenses of medical bills, lost wages from missed work, and even compensation for your pain and suffering. Do not delay, though; your case may have important deadlines.
If your accident was in Baltimore, contact Bennett and Heyman, P.A., to talk about your case. Our experienced injury attorneys are available for free consultations. Call (410) 429-7856 today.