The Lesson of Recent Tragic Passenger Van Crash in Indiana: Bald Tires and Rollovers

The Lesson of Recent Tragic Passenger Van Crash in Indiana: Bald Tires and Rollovers

Last Thursday afternoon, a horrific traffic accident happened on Interstate 69 here in Indiana near the county line dividing Warrick and Gibson counties. It’s reported that 22 people were hurt and two people died.

One of the women who perished in the crash was only 19 years old and pregnant at the time of her death. Miraculously, her baby survived the accident and was born three months premature.

What happened? It was a one-car crash. A passenger van rolled over on the highway, as the van was moving south from Washington to Evansville. It was packed full of people: there were 24 people inside the van, all workers with an Indiana temp agency going to their jobs at the AmeriQual factory in Evansville.

Everyone on that van was injured; no one escaped without being harmed in the crash. In fact, it was such a bad crash that not only were two women killed in the crash, but three people were trapped inside the minivan and had to be rescued by responders. Victims of the crash were taken to nearby hospitals for treatment, some to Gibson General Hospital; some to Deaconess; others to St. Mary’s Hospital. Five medical helicopters came to help the victims; those three who had been trapped inside the van were airlifted out for fast medical treatment.

It was another serious passenger van accident where people died: unfortunately, these rollover passenger van wrecks are a continuing danger on American roads today.

Passenger Van Rollover: Right Rear Tire Blow Out

What happened to cause such a terrible event in the lives of these folk, who were on their way to work like most of us are — going down an Indiana highway from home to our jobs?

The van itself was a Dodge 16-passenger van that appears not to have been properly maintained. Reports from the crash site are that the front bumper had fallen off, and had been replaced with a plank of wood. The passengers were setting on wooden benches inside the van, not the standard passenger seats with all their safety features.

And the tires were bald.

The accident itself is said to have happened when one of those bald tires blew out, the right rear tire, causing the driver to lose control of the vehicle resulting in the roll-over crash.

There are many issues in this heart-wrenching tragedy that are lessons for all of us. Among them?

1. Tires Can Cause Serious and Deadly Accidents

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, tire failures cause around 11,000 traffic accidents each year. Bald tires are one of the most common types of tire failure. (Another is under-inflated tires).

The NHTSA recommends all drivers check the tires on their vehicle before driving it. A tire tread that is only 2/32 of an inch or less is dangerous and can blow out. The car should not be driven if the tire is “bald.” How to know? Try the “penny test” — put the penny in the tire tread with Lincoln’s head upside down. If you can see the TOP of Abe’s head, then the tire should not be driven. It’s bald (under 2/32 of an inch).

2. Passenger Vans Are Susceptible to Rollover Accidents

These long and cumbersome passenger vans are notorious for being prone to rollover accidents. The NHTSA reports that their research reveals that 57% of 15 passenger vans on the roads today have at least ONE significantly under-inflated tire and are in danger of a blow-out.

Additionally, these 15 passenger vans are often loaded improperly with people and things — and errors in how the weight is carried on the van means that the center of gravity is altered. There is a “Gross Vehicle Rate Rating” to be met, too. It’s dangerous to exceed the maximum weight that a passenger van is supposed to carry.

These big passenger vans are difficult to drive, and yet they are often taken out on the road by inexperienced drivers. These drivers may not know how to deal with this type of vehicle on the road at high speed. They may not know to inspect the passenger van before taking off on their trip, checking for things like tire wear and tire inflation levels as well as the gross vehicle weight, and having the passengers and cargo properly situated (with passengers buckled up in their seats).

If you or a loved one will be riding as a passenger in a 15 passenger van, either for work or school or other activities (like a church outing or family adventure), then it’s important to know the dangers and risks of these big passenger vans and make sure that safety is a priority before taking off. Be careful out there!

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