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The Use Of High Occupancy Vans In Virginia

Many companies, churches, non-profit groups and training organizations in Virginia rely on the use of Vans which seat 9, 12 or 15 passengers in order to transact their business. These are called VA High Occupancy Passenger Vans and have been on the roads for several decades. Unfortunately, due to terrible crashes in New York and Georgia which resulted in rollover of the vehicle and deaths of passengers, the rules of use have tightened. The publicity of these fatalities has drawn attention to the problem.

The main problem according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is that the safety of the vehicle diminishes as the vehicle ages. With or without adequate maintenance, the structural integrity of the van will decline. Federal law now prohibits the use of high occupancy passenger vans by pre-primary, primary and secondary schools due to the danger to children. School buses have different design and integrity so only school buses may be used by these educational groups.

Another special concern is that the tires must be checked before every trip so that they are properly inflated and not worn. Used tires should not place on these Virginia vehicles, and tires older than ten years should be immediately replaced.   The weight of the vans when loaded is a factor in the roll over problem.

If using a high occupancy passenger van, it is recommended that the driver should be well acquainted with the special handling characteristics of this type of van. The van, especially when loaded, has sluggishness, slow turning capabilities and does not stop the way a passenger car would break.   Overloading a high occupancy passenger van in VA and then putting it on the road with underinflated tires or tires which are worn is multiplying the danger enormously.

Passengers should each have a seat belt and use it for every trip – no matter how long or short.   The driver should be well rested and experienced. Owners and drivers should remember that high occupancy passenger vans are not simply large cars. If these reasonable and logical concerns are not met, then there can be civil liability for damages or injuries – and those are escalated by the number of potentially injured bodies, along with the lack of exits from this crowded vehicle. The publicized crashes last year which resulted in ten deaths in the New York and Georgia rollover crashes illustrate the concern that instability in the balance of the vehicle can compound situations caused by wind, steep inclines, unbalance number or size of bodies within the van.   The passengers need to remain seated during the ride and remain belted.   When passengers move from one side to another they change the weight balance which can increase the load on the tires and change the steering characteristics of the van.

Civil liability or at least the lawsuits which seek to determine civil liability may or may not be covered by VA auto insurance. A standard Virginia state minimum policy would never cover the issues, damages and potential deaths.  More information on available insurance costs, coverage and companies which have the authority to operate in Virginia can be found by putting your zip code in the block at the top of this page.