This week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a Consumer Advisory regarding traveling in 15-Passenger Vans. As you’ll remember, a lot of national attention was brought on the dangers of these big vans on American roads after the horrific crash of a big rig into a family riding in a passenger van on the way to a family wedding. Eleven of those van passengers died that day.
That tragedy involving a highway crash of a 15-Passenger Van was determined to be caused by truck driver fatigue and not the van itself rolling over, however the dangers of these bulky vehicles on the road remains a real concern. This isn’t news.
The 15-Passenger Van has been a source of concern by those in the know for a long time.
Why? Filled with people, suitcases, ice chests, sporting equipment, etc., these 15-Passenger Vans have a problem with load weight and wheel balance. They are at risk for ROLLOVERS.
One study shows that 74% of these 15-Passenger Vans are at risk for rollover because of tires not having the right amount of air inflation. Another shows that these vans carry a greater risk of death or serious injury of the passengers because seat belts are not provided. Others point to drivers being improperly trained on driving these vehicles; California has passed a law requiring a special license for those taking the wheel of a 15-Passenger Van.
For several years Public Citizen has been warning Americans about the problems of rollovers. Public Citizen warns:
The high rollover propensity of 15-passenger vans is linked to the vehicle’s high center of gravity, which tends to increase and shift rearward as the vehicle is loaded with occupants and cargo. The rearward shift in the center of gravity decreases the van’s lateral stability and makes it prone to fishtailing. If loss of control occurs, the van’s high center of gravity may cause it to tip and rollover.
From Public Citizen, the following recommendations are made for anyone traveling in a 15-Passenger Van:
Ideally, you should take your 15-passenger van out-of-service and use a small school bus for group transportation.
Here is the March 22, 2012 NHTSA Consumer Warning:
NHTSA Offers Tips for Safe Travel in 15-Passenger Vans
For Immediate Release / March 22, 2012
Contact: Derrell Lyles, 202-366-9550
WASHINGTON, DC – As the spring driving season gets under way, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is urging colleges, church groups, and other users of 15-passenger vans to take specific steps to keep drivers and passengers safe — including buckling up every trip, every time.
Recognizing that 15-passenger vans are particularly sensitive to loading, the agency warns users never to overload these vehicles under any circumstances. NHTSA research shows overloading 15-passenger vans both increases rollover risk and makes the vehicle more unstable in any handling maneuvers.
Tire pressure can vary on front and back tires that are used for 15-passenger vans. This is why the agency urges vehicle users to make certain the vans have appropriately-sized and load rated tires that are properly inflated before every trip. Taking into account the fact that tires degrade over time, NHTSA recommends that spare tires not be used as replacements for worn tires. In fact, many tire manufacturers recommend that tires older than 10 years not be used at all.
Following are safety tips for anyone planning a trip in a 15-passenger van:
Never overload the vehicle.
If you are a passenger, make sure you buckle up for every trip.
If you are an owner, make sure the vehicle is regularly maintained.
Owners should have suspension and steering components inspected according to the manufacturer’s recommended schedule and replace or repair these parts as necessary.
Owners should ensure that vehicles are equipped with properly sized and load-rated tires.
Owners should also make sure drivers are properly licensed and experienced in operating a 15-passenger van.
Before every trip, drivers should check the tires for proper inflation, and make sure there are no signs of wear or damage. Correct tire size and inflation pressure information can be found in the owner’s manual and on the door pillar.
Be careful out there. These 15-Passenger Vans can be seen on the roads of Indiana and Illinois, and they are sold with a flourish at local dealerships to all sorts of groups. These vans are dangerous in the way that they are made. Use with care.