The safety of 15-passenger vans has once again been called into question following three fatal crashes in the Southeastern U.S. – including two in Florida – which killed 14 people and injured dozens more over the course of just two weeks.
These vans, popular for use among church groups, sports teams, senior travelers and large family vacationers, are notoriously poorly-weighted, with a heightened risk of rollover. There are also increased risks of tire blow-out and driver error, as the vehicles are known to be difficult to control.
Safety advocates have seized on these incidents as an opportunity to encourage authorities to warn the public regarding the dangers of these vehicles and the importance of proper maintenance, not overloading and always wearing a seat belt.
The first of these tragedies occurred on a Glades County highway, where 18 churchgoers were packed into a van returning to Fort Pierce from a religious gathering in Southwest Florida. The driver reportedly ran a stop sign before crossing the highway and slamming into a ditch. Numerous passengers, who ranged in age from 4 to 89, were ejected. In all, 8 passengers were killed and 10 were injured. A 4-year-old girl was among the survivors. Two of the adults suffered critical injuries.
The National Transportation Safety Board has launched an investigation, something that only happens in about 1 out of every 1 million crashes. The agency said the type of crash and the number of fatalities contributed to the decision to analyze the crash more closely.
Then there was the van crash in Georgia that resulted in four deaths of heavy metal band members from Georgia and Alabama. The two bands had been on their way to a show in Atlanta when the driver, a 27-year-old member of one of the bands, apparently fell asleep at the wheel around 7 a.m. He veered off the road and struck a tree on the passenger side. The entire passenger side of the van was torn off and three people were ejected. They were pronounced dead at the scene, while a fourth died days later at a local hospital. The driver, who was not injured, may face criminal charges.
Finally, there was a crash on the Florida Turnpike that killed a father and two of his young children, ages 2 and 8. There were a total of 12 occupants in the vehicle, and authorities said half weren’t properly restrained. In addition to that factor, authorities said they were examining the possibility of bad tires contributing to the traffic accident.
The National Highway Safety Administration reports ejection is one of the worst things that can happen to passengers in a crash. In analyzing fatal crashes that occurred in 2012, nearly 80 percent of ejected passengers died.
Florida is the deadliest state for 15-passenger van fatalities, according to Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARs). From 2009 through 2013, Florida reported 45 deaths in 15-passenger vans. California, which has a population almost double that of the Sunshine State, was rated No. 2 and had 34 van fatalities during that same time frame.
Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
Florida leads the nation in crashes involving 15-passenger vans, March 30, 2015, By Niels Heimeriks, WPTV-5 West Palm Beach
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