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Are multi-passenger vans as dangerous as often perceived?

Researchers say that, notwithstanding evidence that incontrovertibly spotlights heightened dangers associated with 15-passenger vans, the vehicles might have gotten a bum rap in some prior safety studies.

For years, safety commentators, transportation officials, government legislators and others have singled out such vans for their comparatively frequent involvement in motor vehicle accidents, especially crashes resulting from rollovers.

The researchers, in this case Canadian investigators working in response to a government demand for information following a fatal accident in 2008, conclude in a recent report that 15-passenger vans are being unfairly deemed as “death traps.” In fact, they say, the vehicles hold up as well as other test vehicles when it comes to safety results, and a number of improvements introduced in recent years make them much safer than in bygone times.

Some of the enhanced safety features include these improvements: more air bags, anti-roller technology, improved seat belts and tire-monitoring systems.

The findings come in the wake of increased pressure within Canada to partially restrict the use of the vehicles in the manner undertaken by many American states. Ohio is among those states, with controls placed on the use of 15-passenger vans for transporting students.

A major problem associated with van-related accidents, concludes the study, is the clear evidence indicating that most van occupants do not wear seat belts. The study cites data from the United States showing that nearly 70 percent of 15-passenger van riders don’t buckle up. The effects of that are obvious and tragic when accidents do occur, and they skew an accurate portrait of the vehicle’s safety performance and riding risks.

So, too, do drivers who lack the skill to properly operate multi-passenger vans, which have driving characteristics distinct from other vehicles. The Canadian report recommends enhanced training and tighter licensing standards for van operators.

Source: Yahoo! News Canada, "Report says 15-passenger vans wrongly being labelled 'death traps,'" Steve Mertl, Oct. 21, 2013

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