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15-passenger vans have become the vehicle of choice for many business groups, school groups, and church groups. Unfortunately, according to the NHTSA these vehicles have an unsafe track record for rollover accidents.

CBS 12 reports that at least 7 church members remained hospitalized after the Dodge passenger van they occupied overturned on Florida’s Turnpike near Fort Pierce. Based on the investigation, the vehicle was carrying 19 people from Atlanta and was headed to Fort Lauderdale for a mission trip. The ages of vehicle occupants range from 35-55 years old.

The Florida Highway patrol said the van was towing a trailer behind it as it traveled south on the Turnpike. It was approaching Fort Pierce when one of its tires blew out. The 35-year-old driver lost control of the vehicle, causing the van to violently overturn. The occupants were tossed about inside and all over the roadway. The van, which police said was capable of carrying only 15 passengers, came to rest on its roof.  Vehicle occupants suffered minor to serious injuries.

The major issue about 15-passenger vans is that these vehicles are extremely sensitive to loading. When a passenger van is overloaded, the risk for a rollover accident skyrockets. The van’s center of gravity, tire pressure, the weight of the cargo, the number of passengers, and the use of seat belts are common factors affecting the passengers’ safety.

According to Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a 2004 study conducted by the NHTSA suggests that the odds of a 15-passenger van to roll over when fully loaded increase more than 400 percent compared to a driver traveling alone.

When passengers are injured in a rollover crash, it’s often advisable for them to consult with a good Florida personal injury attorney.