NHTSA Issues 15-Passenger Van Alert for Summer Driving Season

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued a safety alert warning drivers and commuters about the danger of 15-passenger vans. The safety agency is urging 15-passenger van users to take appropriate precautions to guard against the possibility of a tragic rollover crash. NHTSA says a number of factors make 15-passenger vans dangerous for group travel. Here are some of the common causes of catastrophic 15-passenger van crashes:

  • Overloading: NHTSA’s research shows that overloading 15-passenger vans increases the risk of rollovers significantly because it makes the vehicles more unstable especially while handling maneuvers.
  • Lack of experience: NHTSA recommends that only experienced drivers who are familiar with handling the vehicle should operate these vans.
  • Tire inflation: Improperly inflated tires are another common reason for 15-passenger rollover accident. According to NHTSA’s statistics, 30 percent of these vans have at least one significant under-inflated tire. Vehicle users must ensure that the vans have properly sized and load-rated tires that are inflated before every trip. Spare tires must not be used as replacements for worn tires.
  • Proper maintenance: Suspension and steering components must be inspected according to the manufacturer’s recommended schedule.
  • Seatbelt use: All passengers must wear seatbelts on every trip. NHTSA estimates that 88 percent of those killed in 15-passenger van rollover crashes were not buckled up.

Barely a day after NHTSA issued this warning, a 46-year-old woman was killed and many others were injured after a 15-passenger van rollover accident on Florida’s turnpike after a tire tread separation. The van was carrying a church group on a mission trip. There is no question that these vehicles are dangerously unstable and cause serious accidents.

Among the design flaws of these 15-passenger vans is that they use stadium-style seating where passengers in the rear of the vehicle are sitting at a slightly higher elevation than those in front. In the event of a tire blowout, these vans could become unsteady and overturn, as it happened in Florida.

Incidents such as this one in Florida are also a warning to organizations to stop using these vans to transport groups. They may be donated or available cheap, but they are dangerous. Given what we know today about the danger of 15-passenger vans it is unacceptable and unreasonable for universities, childcare centers and churches to be using them for group transportation.

Teens Create Distracted Driving PSAs

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The common view of teenagers is that they are too busy texting and talking on their cell phones to pay any attention to what is going on around them.  This is too often true and sometimes has tragic consequences on the road.  In fact, according to the government’s Distraction.gov website, the largest number of distracted drivers involved in crashes in 2011 included those under 20, with 11 percent of these collisions involving a distracted driver.

However, some teens are taking matters into their own hands to get out the word to their fellow teen drivers that distraction and driving do not mix.  Sponsored by Bridgestone, the Teens Drive Smart Video Contest gives young people a chance to have their voices heard by creating a PSA or public service announcement that will be played on television to show teens the dangers of distracted driving.

So far, Bridgestone says that it has received some top-notch original videos, including:

  • “A Reciprocal of Teen Drivers”—A clever approach in which sentences read one way produce a negative impression of teens but when read backward give a positive message.
  • “August 19”—A tribute to a friend killed behind the wheel and a strong message about avoiding distracted driving.
  • “My Distractions”—An animated short that illustrates dangers to be avoided.
  • “Save A Life”—One text can change a life forever in this short video.
  • “It Can Wait”—Illustrates a situation in which no one would consider texting to show that texting can be postponed.

These winners can be viewed at Teensdrivesmart.com.  Watch them with your teen and discuss them.

How Can I Help Reduce Texting and Driving?

One of the best things you can do for your teens is to monitor your own behavior.  If you talk on the phone constantly while driving, they will think this behavior is acceptable.  Hang up and spend the time talking to your children instead of on business calls.  Never text while you are driving, even at a stoplight.  If an emergency occurs, pull over and park before getting out your phone.  Your actions will make an impression on your teens.

You may have to be a bit more invasive when it comes to monitoring your teen’s texting.  No one wants to spy on their children, but it is better to know what is going on than to face a serious collision, injury and even death of a child due to texting.  Make rules and enforce them, but think of creative ways to help teens follow these regulations.  For example, you could negotiate with your teen that if he or she agrees to put the cell phone in the glove compartment every time the car is turned on, you will give him or her a bonus at the end of the month in the form of some reward.  On the other hand, if someone tells you your teen has been texting while driving or if your teen receives a distracted driving citation, it is vital that you deal with the situation promptly, even if it means taking away the teen’s phone for a period of time. Texting and driving can increase the risk of car accidents, so it is important to be proactive regarding educating your teenager on texting and driving.

Personal injury attorneys see the terrible consequences of texting and driving every day.  Do not allow your children to take these kinds of risks; instead, become involved and talk to them about the dangers of texting and driving.