15-Passenger Vans Carry Some Risk When Fully Loaded
It’s not uncommon for businesses or organizations to use 15-passenger vans for transportation. While they may be convenient, authorities warn owners and users that proper driver training and consistent maintenance are vital to keeping those riding in the vans safe. Research continues to show that 15-passenger vans carry a high rollover risk and the more passengers in the van, the greater the risk of a rollover.
Colorado Rollover Accidents
Though not an everyday occurrence, there have been some deadly auto accidents in Colorado involving 15-passenger vans. As noted in the Denver Post, a 2009 rollover involving ministry students from Federal Heights killed one and injured 15. Across the country, there have been other similar accidents, and according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), the odds of a rollover for a 15-passenger van dramatically increase when you compare the van commuting with only the driver on board versus the van fully occupied.
NHTSA noted that the odds of a rollover increased by more than 400 percent with a fully loaded van when compared to the van with only the driver inside. The potential for a van rollover has to do with the vehicle’s center of gravity. When fully loaded with passengers, the center of gravity will shift higher, above the wheels. Any sudden movement by the driver, such as accidentally veering into another lane and then quickly trying to steer back into the original lane, can cause a rollover. As much danger as sudden veering can cause, authorities say there are proven methods to improve safety.
Action Needed from Drivers and Passengers
Research shows that 80 percent of passengers killed in van rollovers between the years 2003 and 2007, were not wearing seatbelts. The study also found that 57 percent of vans involved in rollovers had at least one tire that was significantly underinflated. Authorities continue to stress that driver training, consistent maintenance, and passengers themselves are the key to safety. If you have a 15-passenger van, you should:
- Never allow more than 15 people to ride in the van and if you are driving with less than 15-passengers, make sure those passengers are in seats that are in front of the rear axle.
- Insist that all passengers wear seatbelts at all times.
- Ensure the driver is properly trained to drive a 15-passenger Van drivers need additional training since these vehicles operate differently than a passenger car, especially when the van is full of passengers.
- Inspect the tires and check tire pressure before each use. Worn tires and tires that are not inflated to the proper pressure can lead a driver to lose control of the van, leading to a rollover situation. You should also check the spare tire to make sure it’s in good shape in case you should need it.
- If roads are wet or icy while you are driving, slow down; these types of vehicles do not respond well to sudden steering maneuvers, and you will need more space for braking.
New Tech Reduces Fatal Van Accidents
Between 2004 and 2013, 653 people riding in 15-passenger vans were killed in crashes. Sixty percent of those crashes involved rollovers. Today, vans are safer, partly because of electronic stability control (ESC), sensors that will automatically brake individual wheels to prevent an accident. For instance, if a driver is heading into a curve too fast, ESC will help stabilize the van by anticipating the driver’s move and then generating uneven braking, so the driver maintains control of the van.
While this technology can be life-saving, authorities say safety starts with the driver and passengers. Every time a 15-passenger van is used, both parties should do everything they can to make the ride as safe as possible.