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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

How To Reduce The Risk of Rollover Crashes in 15-Passenger Vans

Follow These Steps to Ensure Safe Ride

A typical fifteen-passenger van has seating for a driver and 14 passengers. Community organizations use them to take members on short trips and outings. Universities and colleges drive sports teams to intercollegiate games, while vanpools use them to transport commuters.

Research conducted recently by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) revealed that rollover crash risk is seriously increased when 10 or more people ride in a 15-passenger van. This increased risk happens because the passenger weight elevates the vehicle's center of gravity and causes it to shift rearward. Because of this, the van has less resistance to rollover and handles differently from common passenger vehicles, making it more difficult to control in a crisis situation. Strapping a load on the roof also elevates the center of gravity and makes the likelihood of a rollover more likely.

Heavily influenced by driver and road characteristics as well as the design of the vehicle, rollover crashes are complex events. NHTSA discovered, in studies of single-vehicle crashes, that greater than 90 percent of rollovers happen after a driver has lost control of the vehicle and has run off the road. Three key situations can lead to a rollover in a 15-passenger van:
• The van veers off a rural road. When this happens, the van is likely to overturn when it strikes a ditch or embankment or when it is tripped by an object, or runs onto soft soil. 

• The driver is fatigued or driving too fast for conditions. A fatigued driver can fall asleep and lose control. When traveling at high speeds, the driver can also lose control, causing the van to slide sideways off the road. When the tires dig into the dirt, the grassy or dirt medians that line highways can often cause the van to overturn.
• The driver overcorrects the steering as a panic reaction to an emergency or to a wheel dropping off the pavement. This situation can cause the driver to lose control, particularly at freeway speeds, culminating in the van sliding sideways and rolling over.

In the past 10 years, 80 percent of rollover crash in 15-passenger van victims were unbelted. Passengers can significantly reduce their risk of being killed or seriously injured in a rollover crash just by wearing their seat belts. A written seat belt use policy should be employed by organizations that own 15-passenger vans. Enforcing the policy should be the responsibility of the drivers.

Because large numbers of people die in rollover crashes when they are partially or completely thrown from the vehicle, seat belt use is especially critical. According to NHTSA estimates, people who wear their seat belts are about 75 percent less likely to be killed in a rollover crash than people who don't.

Because of significant differences in the design and handling characteristics of a 15-passenger van, it drives differently from other passenger vehicles. It is suggested that an organization that employs a 15-passenger van select two experienced drivers to drive the van on a regular basis. These drivers can gain valuable experience handling the van, helping make each trip a safe one.
Most rollover crashes don’t involve other vehicles, so they are often preventable. Here are some tips for drivers to minimize the risk of a rollover crash and serious injury:
• Avoid conditions that lead to a loss of control. It goes without saying that one should never drive while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Be well rested and attentive, and always drive carefully if the roads are wet or icy. 

• Drive cautiously on rural roads. In particular, be cautious on curved rural roads and maintain a safe speed to avoid running off the road. 

• Know what to do if your wheels drop off the roadway. Gradually reduce speed and steer back onto the roadway if your wheels drop off the roadway, or pavement. 

• Properly maintain your tires. Make sure the tread is not worn down and your tires are properly inflated. Worn tires can cause the van to slide sideways on wet or slippery roadways. Under-inflated tires can cause handling problems and lead to disastrous tire failures, such as blowouts. Be sure to check tire pressure and tread wear once a month.
• When a 15-passenger van is not full to capacity, passengers should sit in the seats that are in front of the rear axle.
• A 15-passenger van should never have more than 15 passengers.
• A 15-passenger van is substantially longer and wider than a car. Therefore, it:
• Requires more space and greater reliance on side-view mirrors for changing lanes

• Does not respond well to sudden steering 

• Needs additional braking time.

"15 Passenger Van Rollover Information"
. NHTSA Repeats Rollover Warning To Users of 15-Passenger Vans (Press Release)
. Reduciendo El Riesgo De Accidentes Por Vuelcos En Camionetas De 15 Pasajeros - posted 5/13/2004
. Reducing The Risk of Rollover Crashes in 15-Passenger Vans" - Flyer
(PDF - Laser Resolution)
Reducing The Risk of Rollover Crashes in 15-Passenger Vans" - Hangtag
(PDF - Laser Resolution)

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