Are passenger vans safe?

Vans carrying up to 15 passengers have a low safety reputation in Florida because of a much higher accident rate than other vehicles, resulting in an unacceptable number of fatalities and serious injuries. In 2001, 137 people died in 15-passenger vans, of which 93 were killed in rollovers. Even though these nationwide figures do not appear to be high, they indicate a very high accident rate considering the low number of passenger vans on America's roads compared to other vehicles.

Passenger vans handle quite differently from smaller passenger cars. There are various reasons why these vehicles are involved in far more crashes:
  • They are longer, higher and wider;
  • The driver relies on side mirrors to view what's happening in the back and along the sides;
  • The brake system is undersized in relation to the total weight when fully loaded;
  • They often ride with tires that are worn and improperly inflated;
  • When loaded, the center of gravity is higher than for passenger cars, making roll-overs more likely.

In many cases, passenger vans, especially airport shuttles, ride non-stop, leaving little time for servicing and maintenance, and are frequently driven by young and inexperienced drivers, not necessarily familiar with the way these vans handle on the road.

Should you be worried about taking the airport shuttle?

Things have improved dramatically since 2003. In 2006, the total number of fatalities had already dropped to 58, while the number of people killed in rollovers plummeted to 30. The trend has most probably continued since, even if more recent statistics are not available.

One important safety factor is in your own hands: the use of safety belts. Most passenger van rollover fatalities were passengers that did not buckle up, while statistics have shown that seat belt usage is much lower in these vans than in passenger cars.

Another important rollover factor is the tire air pressure and thread depth. Finally, fully loaded vans are twice as likely to roll over as vans carrying fewer than 10 passengers and their luggage.

So the answer is yes, you can take the shuttle, but avoid the crowded ones and those with worn-out, underinflated tires, and beware of very young or speeding drivers. In all cases, buckle up!

If you or someone you love has been hurt in a car, van or truck crash, call the Daytona Beach attorneys of Johnson & Gilbert toll free at (800) 556-8890 and locally at (386) 673-4412, or fill out the form on this page for a free consultation on your case.
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