15-passenger vans have become a popular mode of transportation for church groups, sports teams, and summer activity organizers, however, the history regarding these vehicles has long been a dangerous one as Federal regulators have previously warned of its rollover danger. In crash data collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration from 2003 to 2007, a 15-passenger van with 10 or more occupants carries a rollover rate three times higher than a 15-passenger van carrying less than five people. In 2007, 15-passenger vans that rolled over had 73% more fatalities than the previous year, occupant fatalities in all 15-passenger van accidents increased a total of 20% from 2006.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) sites a 2004 study by the NHTSA where the odds of a rollover accident for a 15-passenger van increased more than 400% when the van was fully loaded compared to a driver traveling alone. The IIHS acknowledges other factors that influence the safety of these passenger vehicles such as the vehicle's tire pressure, the vehicle's high center of gravity, the number of passengers, the amount of cargo, the use of seat belts, and the use of alcohol.
According to the NHTSA, if you are planning to take a trip in a 15-passenger van this spring, here is a helpful list of safety tips to ensure the trip is a safe one:
- Never overload the vehicle. Agency research shows overloading not only increases rollover risk but makes the vehicle more unstable in any handling maneuvers.
- Make sure the vehicle is regularly maintained, and that drivers are properly licensed and experienced in operating a 15-passenger van.
- Have suspension and steering components inspected according to the manufacturer's recommended schedule and replace or repair these parts as necessary.
- Ensure that vehicles are equipped with properly sized and load-rated tires.
- Check the tires for proper inflation and 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.