Fifteen-passenger vans typically have seating positions
for a driver and 14 passengers. They are widely used by community organizations
to take members on short trips and outings. Colleges use them to drive
sports teams to intercollegiate games and vanpools use them for commuters.
What increases the risk of rollover crashes?
Recent research conducted by the National Highway
Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has found that the risk of a rollover
crash is greatly increased when 10 or more people ride in a 15-passenger
van. This increased risk occurs because the passenger weight raises the
vehicles center of gravity and causes it to shift rearward. As a
result, the van has less resistance to rollover and handles differently
from other commonly driven passenger vehicles, making it more difficult
to control in an emergency situation. Placing any load on the roof also
raises the center of gravity and increases the likelihood of a rollover.
What situations can cause a rollover?
A rollover crash is a complex event, heavily influenced
by driver and road characteristics as well as the design of the vehicle.
In studies of single-vehicle crashes, NHTSA has found that more than 90
percent of rollovers occur after a driver has lost control of the vehicle
and has run off the road. Three major situations can lead to a rollover
in a 15-passenger van.
- The van goes off a rural road. If
this occurs, the van is likely to overturn when it strikes a ditch or
embankment or when it is tripped by an object or runs onto soft soil.
- The driver is fatigued or driving too fast
for conditions. A tired driver can doze
off and lose control. The driver can also lose control when traveling
at a high speed causing the van to slide sideways off the road. The
grassy or dirt medians that line highways can often cause the van to
overturn when the tires dig into the dirt.
- The driver overcorrects the steering as a panic
reaction to an emergency or to a wheel dropping off the pavement.
Especially at freeway speeds, this situation
can cause the driver to lose control, resulting in the van sliding sideways
and rolling over.
What can organizations do to protect their passengers?
Over the past decade, 80 percent of people killed
in rollover crashes in 15-passenger vans were unbelted. Passengers can
dramatically reduce their risk of being killed or seriously injured in
a rollover crash by simply using their seat belts. Organizations that
own 15-passenger vans should have a written seat belt use policy. Drivers
should be responsible for enforcing the policy.
Seat belt use is especially critical because large numbers
of people die in rollover crashes when they are partially or completely
thrown from the vehicle. NHTSA estimates that people who wear their seat
belts are about 75 percent less likely to be killed in a rollover crash
than people who dont.
Does an experienced driver make a difference?
Significant differences in the design and handling
characteristics of a 15-passenger van make it drive differently from other
passenger vehicles. Therefore, an organization that owns a 15-passenger
van should select one or two experienced drivers to drive the van on a
regular basis. These drivers will gain valuable experience handling the
van. This experience will help make each trip a safe one.
How can rollover crashes be prevented?
Because most rollover crashes dont involve
other vehicles, they are often preventable. Here are some tips for drivers
to minimize the risk of a rollover crash and serious injury:
- Avoid conditions that lead to a loss of control.
Never drive while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Make
sure you are well rested and attentive, and always slow down if the
roads are wet or icy.
- Drive cautiously on rural roads. Be
particularly cautious on curved rural roads and maintain a safe
speed to avoid running off the road.
- Know what to do if your wheels drop off the
roadway. If your wheels drop off the roadway, or pavement, gradually
reduce speed and steer back onto the roadway when it is safe to do so.
- Properly maintain your tires. Make
sure your tires are properly inflated and the tread is not worn down.
Worn tires can cause your van to slide sideways on wet or slippery pavement.
Improper inflation can cause handling problems and can lead to catastrophic
tire failures, such as blowouts. Therefore, check tire pressure and
treadwear once a month.
What are other considerations for safe driving?
When a 15-passenger van is not full, passengers
should sit in seats that are in front of the rear axle.
More than 15 people should never be allowed to
ride in a 15-passenger van.
Because a 15-passenger van is substantially longer
and wider than a car, it:
- Requires more space and additional reliance on
the side-view mirrors for changing lanes
- Does not respond as well to abrupt steering
- Requires additional braking time.
"15 Passenger Van Rollover Information"