2010-10-29 / Top Stories

DMV Sets Rules For Passenger Vans

On September 18, a 1997 minivan carrying 14 members of a Bronx church crashed on the New York State Thruway near Woodbury.

Several unrestrained passengers were ejected when the van rolled over in the median.

The crash killed six people and injured another eight, including the driver. In the wake of that tragic crash, Commissioner David J. Swarts of the Department of Motor Vehicles and chair of the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC), along with two federal officials, have urged registrants of 9-, 12- and 15- passenger vans to take critical precautions to ensure the safety of all passengers.

“We are reaching out to the registrants of these vehicles with important safety advice,” Swarts said. “First, have a qualified service center verify that the vehicle has the appropriate tires and that the tires and suspension system are in safe condition. Second, every vehicle occupant must use the appropriate safety restraint.

And third, drivers must be aware of the different handling characteristics of larger vehicles from regular passenger vehicles.”

NHTSA recommends van registrants check the date of manufacture of all the tires, including the spare. Tires degrade over time and manufacturers recommend that consumers not use tires older than 10 years, even if they have not reached the legal wear limit.

All vehicle passengers should be properly buckled up, particularly occupants of multi-passenger vans.

Using seat belts significantly increases the chances of surviving, because the belted occupant remains within the confines of the vehicle and is not ejected.

In New York State, 21 percent of motor vehicle occupants killed in crashes were unrestrained.

Under New York State law, the driver and each passenger in the front seat of a motor vehicle must wear a seat belt. Passengers under age 16 must wear an appropriate safety restraint, re-gardless of seating position. Passengers between ages four and eight are required to be restrained by an appropriate child safety booster seat with a seatbelt, and any passenger under the age of four must be in a child safety seat.

Drivers of 9-, 12- and 15-passenger vans should be properly licensed, fully trained and experienced in controlling the vehicle in any unexpected driving situation. Such vans can be more difficult than passenger cars to steer and stop, particularly when loaded with passengers or in highwind conditions.

Vehicles which are taller/higher can be top heavy, increasing the risk of rollover when making sudden maneuvers like swerving to avoid an object or traveling too fast into a sharp curve.

Visit the DMV’s web site (www.- dmv.ny.gov) or the GTSC web site (www.safeny.ny.gov).

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