What Are the Hidden Dangers of 15-Passenger Vans?

Fifteen-passenger vans are common methods of transportation for churches, schools, nursing homes, daycare centers, employers, tour groups, and commercial companies. Unfortunately, these vans are not always safe for passengers. Research shows 15-passenger vans can pose serious risks for occupants – including a high risk of rollover crashes. Exploring the hidden dangers of 15-passenger vans could help you comprehend your rights after a collision.

Rollover Accidents

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has warned drivers of the serious risk of rollovers in 15-passenger vans. Its research found that these vans’ centers of gravity shift up and back when fully loaded. This can lead to a higher risk of rollovers during turns or abrupt swerves – especially at high speeds. The NHTSA states that a fully-loaded 15-passenger van increases the risk of rollover by five times compared to a van with only the driver.

The reason for the high risk of rollover is that manufacturers maintained the typical wheel base as a regular van but added an extra row of seats. This decreased the van’s stability and made it less capable of handling extra weight. A high center of gravity also contributes to the risk of rollover, mainly during a tire blowout. Keep the risk of rollover as low as possible in a 15-passenger van by driving slowly and safely, and by filling seats front to back.

Inexperienced or Poorly Trained Drivers

Operating a 15-passenger van takes special training and experience. It does not maneuver like a typical van. It needs more stopping distance, as it cannot brake as quickly as typical passenger vehicles. They cannot safely handle abrupt maneuvers such as sharp turns or slamming on the brakes. Sudden maneuvers could cause the van to roll over or careen off the roadway.

Drivers of 15-passenger vans should have proper licenses and experience to operate these vehicles. They should drive them on a regular basis. They should always insist on all passengers buckling their seatbelts before starting the vehicle. An inexperienced, incompetent, or negligent driver who causes a van accident could be liable for injuries and damages, as could the company that employed the driver.

Tire Failures

The NHTSA also recommends that owners of 15-passenger vans check the tires at least once per week, as well as before each use. Around 11% of fatal 15-passenger van rollover accidents stem from tire failure. Check tires for proper pressure according to the owner’s manual. You should inflate all tires, including the spare, to the proper tire pressure. Tread should not show signs of excessive wear. Worn-down or poorly inflated tires could blow out during a trip and contribute to a fatal rollover crash. Replace your spare tire if it is more than a few years old, as it could wear out with time even if unused.

Lack of Seatbelt Use

Occupants in 15-passenger vans who do not wear seatbelts are four times as likely to die in a collision than those who buckle up are. Seventy percent (70%) of passengers killed in 15-passenger vans in accidents from 2007 to 2016 were not wearing seatbelts at the time of the crash. Crashes ejected about 41% of the 509 occupants who died in this timeframe. Passengers may not wear seatbelts because they think of the large van like a bus, or so they can turn around and chat with friends. Drivers and supervisors should always require seatbelt use before driving.

Overloaded Van

Driving with too many passengers or a too-heavy cargo load could cause a fatal van accident. Never permit more than 15 people to ride in a 15-passenger van. Always place cargo forward of the rear axle instead of in the back of the van. Do not place any loads on the roof, as this could change the van’s center of gravity and increase the risk of rollovers. Read the owner’s manual for maximum weight limits and where best to put cargo, as well as the van’s towing capacity. Overloading a 15-passenger van can significantly increase the risk of an accident.