Baltimore Traffic Injury Update: Maryland Residents Should Understand Injury Risk when Riding in Commercial Passenger Vans

For most Maryland drivers, being safe on the road can means watching out for the other guy and making sure your car, truck or motorcycle is mechanically sound and well maintained. As a Baltimore auto accident lawyer and personal injury attorney, I understand the reasons why we all should give our personal vehicles the special attention they deserve in order to run right and keep us safe in case of an accident.

That said, everyone — drivers and passengers alike — must remember that the commercial vehicles in which we travel from time to time can be a major source of traffic injuries and potential fatalities. It goes without saying that we have little control over or knowledge of the quality of maintenance that these vehicle receive prior to riding in them.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), those large-capacity passenger vans that we all see taking church members, school athletic teams and retirees to and from various events could be more dangerous than any of us imagine. Based on a combination of factors, these vehicles apparently have a higher than average propensity for rollover accidents than most other types of passenger cars.

In fact, the NHTSA has issued a number of warnings regarding large 15-passenger vans. The reason is that these vehicles, often operated by commercial transportation companies, do not have the handling capabilities that lower-slung passenger cars do. The driver of such a vehicle must understand the limitations of these vehicles, which means gaining the necessary experience through training and operating these large vans on a regular basis.

Because 15-passenger vans have a typically higher center of gravity, they are much more apt to roll over during an emergency maneuver at highway speeds. This deadly characteristic is made even worse if the van’s tires are under-inflated, someone has installed defective parts, or if the vehicle itself is loaded beyond its rated capacity.

The sad part of all this is that many of these vehicles also do not have full lap and shoulder belts for all passengers — and many passengers simply choose not to use the safety belts that are there. As a result, any accident — not the least of which a dangerous and potentially fatal rollover crash — can have a tragic outcome for the occupants. The convenience of these vehicles makes them a quick choice for transporting groups of people, but there apparently remains a great risk to passengers especially if the proper safety precautions are not followed.

15-passenger vans, improperly inflated tires and no seat belts ~ a deadly combination,, December 15, 2010

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