Van Accidents Continue To Kill and Injure


Van accidents continue to be a major cause of death and injury on the nation’s roadways. Our Atlanta injury lawyers are keenly aware of these dangers. Fifteen-passenger vans typically have seating positions for a driver and 14 passengers. They are widely used by community organizations to take members on short trips and outings. Colleges use them to drive sports teams to intercollegiate games and vanpools use them for commuters.

van on the highwayRecent research conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has found that the risk of a rollover crash is greatly increased when 10 or more people ride in a 15-passenger van. This occurs because the passenger weight raises the vehicle’s center of gravity and causes it to shift rearward. The van then has less resistance to rollover and is more difficult to control in an emergency situation. Placing any load on the roof also raises the center of gravity and increases the chance of a rollover.

A rollover crash is a complex event. In studies of single-vehicle crashes, NHTSA discovered that more than 90 percent of rollovers occur after a driver has lost control of the vehicle and has run off the road. NHTSA identified three major situations which led to rollover accidents in 15-passenger vans.

  1. The van goes off a rural road. In this case, the van is likely to overturn when it strikes a ditch or embankment or travels onto soft soil.
  2. The driver is fatigued or driving too fast for conditions. A tired driver is more likely to fall asleep at the wheel and lose control. High speeds can cause the van to slide sideways off the road causing the tires to dig into dirt.
  3. The driver overcorrects the steering as a panic reaction to an emergency or to a wheel dropping off the pavement.

In the last ten years over 80 percent of people killed in rollover crashes in 15-passenger vans were unbelted. Seat belt use is especially critical because large numbers of people die in rollover crashes when they are partially or completely thrown from the vehicle. The risk of death or serious injury can be greatly reduced in a rollover crash by the use of seat belts.

Since most rollover crashes involve single vehicles they are often preventable.
NHTSA offers the following tips for drivers to minimize the risk of a rollover crash and serious injury or death:

  1. Avoid conditions that lead to a loss of control. Never drive while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Make sure you are well rested and attentive, and always slow down if the roads are wet or icy.
  2. Drive cautiously on rural roads. Be particularly cautious on curved rural roads and maintain a safe speed to avoid running off the road.
  3. Know what to do if your wheels drop off the roadway. If your wheels drop off the roadway, or pavement, gradually reduce speed and steer back onto the roadway when it is safe to do so.
  4. Properly maintain your tires. Make sure your tires are properly inflated and the tread is not worn down. Worn tires can cause your van to slide sideways on wet or slippery pavement. Improper inflation can cause handling problems and can lead to catastrophic tire failures, such as blowouts. Therefore, check tire pressure and treadwear once a month.
  5. When a 15-passenger van is not full, passengers should sit in seats that are in front of the rear axle.
  6. More than 15 people should never be allowed to ride in a 15-passenger van.
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About Richard Hendrix

Richard W. Hendrix is a former state and federal prosecutor who has more than 30 years of experience in complex civil and criminal litigation. He has also served as a mediator in Alternative Dispute Resolutions (ADR).

Since joining Finch McCranie in 1985, Mr. Hendrix has built an extensive litigation practice focusing on wrongful death and serious personal injury cases as well as federal white collar criminal defense cases. He has successfully represented injured parties in personal injury cases throughout the state of Georgia. Mr. Hendrix has also effectively defended business and individuals, including a former US Congressman, against indictments and grand jury investigations. In 2006 and 2008-2012, he was selected to Georgia Super Lawyers.

He is admitted to practice in Georgia and South Carolina. Mr. Hendrix is licensed to appear before the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia and the District of South Carolina as well as the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, Fifth Circuit, and Eleventh Circuit.

From 1979-1985, Mr. Hendrix served as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia. He was also Associate Independent Counsel for the investigation of the Department of Housing and Urban Development from 1991-1992.

Mr. Hendrix graduated with cum laude honors from Davidson College and he received his law degree from Emory University. Since 1992, Mr. Hendrix has been an Adjunct Professor of Litigation at Georgia State University College of Law. He is also a Master of the Bench with the Lamar American Inn of Court where he works to enhance the professional, ethics and skills of the legal community.

Mr. Hendrix has also authored numerous articles including: “High Speed Police Chases and Injured Innocent By-Standers,” The Verdict (Summer, 2015) “Tolling the Statute of Limitations in Tort Cases for Victims of a Crime,” The Verdict (Fall, 2007); “A Refresher On the Federal Tort Claims Act,” The Verdict (Winter, 1999); “Rule 16 and the Jencks Act: A Need for Legal Reform,” Calendar Call (Winter, 1996); “Corporate Criminal Liability: The Need for Effective Compliance Programs,” South Carolina Lawyer (March/April, 1993); “Crossing State Lines in Wrongful Death Actions: Traps for the Unwary,” The Verdict (Fall, 1990); and “White Collar Crime: New Tools for Prosecution,” The Atlanta Lawyer (Summer, 1986)