It is well known that the death toll on U.S. roads exceeds the loss of life in all our wars combined. The first cause of death for Americans ages 5 to 34 is traffic accidents. Using common driver safety knowledge and using a seatbelt could have saved many of these lives. Sports teams, schools, camps, public service groups and parents often use large vans to carry large groups to various events. So, it is with good reason that van drivers are now beginning to insist their passengers buckle up.
A van driver is considering more than driver safety when demanding the use of seatbelts. They must also do this to meet legal and car insurance requirements. Not wearing a seatbelt is illegal in every state in the U.S. except for New Hampshire. In 30 states, plus the District of Columbia, not wearing a seatbelt is a primary offense. This means that a police officer can pull a vehicle over for that reason alone. Thus the van owner and driver are in a very bad position with the law and their car insurance company if there is an accident involving unrestrained passengers. The lack of driver safety precautions would be a strong negative in any negotiation or legal proceeding, and car insurance rates in these cases will surely rise.
Yet another compelling reason for a van driver to be preoccupied with seat belt use is a safety issue specific to vans. A fully loaded 15-passenger van has a tendency to roll over. According to a May 2009 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study, “15-passenger vans with 10 or more occupants had a rollover rate in single vehicle crashes that is nearly three times the rate of those that had fewer than five occupants. NHTSA recommends that drivers insist all occupants wear safety belts at all times; that drivers of 15-passenger vans are trained and experienced; tires are checked at least once a week … and no loads are placed on the roof of the vehicle.” NHTSA figures indicate that about 80 percent of the occupants killed in van rollovers in the past five years were not belted at the time of the crash.
Unfortunately, some passengers who would automatically buckle up in cars are unwilling to do so in vans. This puts the van driver in the awkward position of having to insist they do so. A British study of 2,000 van insurance customers found that 68 percent of van drivers needed to request their passengers to fasten their seat belts and that 21 percent of the passengers refused.
Regardless of how safe you feel while riding in a large van, wearing your seatbelt is a necessary precaution to prevent you from becoming another statistic.