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15-Passenger Van Safety Recommendations

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has twice, in the past two years, issued a warning advisory about rollover hazards of 15-passenger vans. In April of 2001 the NHTSA issued a cautionary warning for 15 passenger vans and their propensity to rollover. According to the NHTSA study, "vans with ten or more occupants have three (3) times the rollover ratio than those with fewer then ten occupants." The report goes on to state "the decrease in stability under fully loaded conditions correlates to an increase in the rollover risk of approximately 40 percent." NHTSA said in its notice of caution that it is important that 15 passenger vans be operated by experienced drivers and that institutions using the vans require seat belt use at all times.

The NHTSA made this information available because of the findings and because of several highly publicized rollover accidents involving 15 passenger vans loaded with college students (often driven by a fellow student rather than a professional driver). This report was also due to concerns related to 15 passenger van crashes involving transportation of college sports teams. All but one of these crashes involved rollover of a 15 passenger van. There was also a feature presentation by 60 Minutes II bringing this issue to the public.

The UM Risk and Insurance Management office advocates that use policies on 12 and 15 passenger vans be reviewed and include the following criteria:

  • Limit capacity to 10 people. The NHSTA report noted that vans with more than 10 people had a higher rollover rate.
  • Vehicle operators should assure that all their passengers are wearing their seat belts. The NHTSA indicates that you can reduce your chance of being killed in a rollover by about 75% just by wearing a seat belt.
  • Limit Speed to 65 MPH on all passenger vans (slower during various conditions). In most of the van accidents reported, speed was a contributing factor.
  • No driver younger than 21 should be allowed to drive a passenger van. All drivers should be a University of Missouri employee or recognized volunteer.
  • There should be no roof racks or trailer hitches on the vehicles. Luggage and gear should be stored in the vehicle (with a limit of ten passengers, there will be more storage area. However, the rear window should not be blocked by luggage. These vehicles should not be used to tow trailers.
  • For long distance trips, drivers should rotate every two hours. We recommend a maximum driving shift of two hours, with no driver taking more than three shifts. The maximum driving day with three drivers should not exceed 18 hours.
  • Driving through the night is not permitted. Do not drive past midnight. Front passengers should remain awake to help keep the driver alert during all shifts.

Reviewed 2011-03-15.

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