Government Studies Show Dangers of 15-Passenger Vans

Government Studies Show Dangers of 15-Passenger Vans

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Samantha Hayes ReportingAccident investigation teams are working to find out why a blown tire caused the van to go out of control. The van itself could have been partly to blame. The government has warned about the dangers of large passenger vans for years.

Today Utah State said it is looking into replacing the top-heavy passenger vans. The school has a fleet of 50 and has stopped using all of them for now. You've seen them on the roads before, most likely even ridden in one. The 15 passenger van is a common way for groups to get around. The Utah Transit Authority leases hundreds of them.

Jusin Jones, Utah Transit Authority: “They are heavier, taller, wider, and so you have to drive them like a larger vehicle.”

Utah State says the driver of the van that crashed on I-84 had the proper license and training. Highway Patrol says he may have been going too fast when one of the tires blew. The condition of those tires before the crash may never be known, but one study found 74 percent of all 15 passenger vans had significantly mis-inflated tires, compared with 39 percent of cars. And federal research shows improperly inflated tires makes those types of vehicles more likely to roll.

When the USU van rolled, all 11 people were thrown out.

Glen Ford, Vice-President of Business & Finance: "Our policies and our training focuses greatly on the use of seat belt and they must be worn."

Sgt. Brian Nelson, Utah Highway Patrol: "It does not appear that any of them were belted in.” Question: Does the van have belts? “I believe so yes. I believe I saw them hanging."

Nearly 80% of those who died in 15-passenger van rollovers nationwide between 1990 and 2003 were NOT buckled up. It is a much higher risk for an unbelted passenger in any type of vehicle.

Rolayne Fairclough, AAA Utah: "These crashes happen so quickly. There's no way to prepare for them except to wear your seat belts."

Another of the university's 15-passenger vans flipped in 2001 near Laramie, Wyoming. That crash injured six volleyball players.

In the wake of its worst-ever tragedy, Utah State says it is re-evaluating whether it should be using top-heavy passenger vans at all. Both state safety inspectors and the National Traffic Safety Board are now inspecting the van, trying to figure out just what went wrong.

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