How 15-Passenger Vans are Accidents Waiting to Happen

Many people appreciate the convenience of 15-passenger vans for school groups, church activities, or sporting teams. It’s nice to be able to pile everyone into one vehicle for a tournament or family reunion. Perhaps you hopped aboard one yourself to the airport recently without a second thought. However, many people do not realize the dangers of these popular vans. In fact, they are far more accident prone than many other vehicles.

Not surprisingly, there is an uptick in accidents involving 15-passenger vans in the summer months, when more people are on the road traveling for events and vacations. Before you rent a van for your outing, it’s important to consider the risks and safety considerations first.

The Dangers of Rollover Accidents and 15-Passenger Vans

What makes 15-passenger vans more dangerous than other vehicles is their high rollover risk. While technically their capacity is 15 passengers, the rollover risk increases exponentially when there are more than 10 passengers in the van. Having a full van shifts the center of gravity up and to the back, making it less stable when quick maneuvers are needed or an increase in speed.

A few additional things to consider:

  • Passengers are less likely to wear seat belts when traveling in a van than other vehicles. (The NHTSA reports that 70% of all fatalities from these vans were not wearing seatbelts.)
  • Tire tread and inflation is a primary cause of rollover accidents. Approximately 60% of all van rollovers are the result of under-inflated tires.
  • Inexperienced drivers may not understand the inherent dangers of the vehicle and how to adjust their driving.
  • Not surprisingly, injuries can be more severe in a van accident. You are more likely to be killed in a van rollover accident than a car rollover accident.

Still not convinced? The US Code §30112 prohibits schools from leasing or purchasing 12- or 15-passenger vans for their use due to safety concerns.

Practical Safety Measures for 15-Passenger Van Drivers

The best way to stay safe is to choose another transportation option, if available. Despite the concerns, perhaps you’ve decided that a 15-passenger van is still the best choice for your group. If so, there are measures you can take that will limit your risk.

  • Only operate with an experienced driver. Whoever drives the van must understand that it will maneuver different than other cars, trucks, or even minivans. A commercial driver’s license is ideal.
  • Closely monitor the tire pressure and condition. As stated above, tire blowouts can cause rollover accidents. Check the tire pressure before each use, and monitor tread for wear. Don’t forget to keep the spare tire properly inflated.
  • Take care when loading. Passengers and cargo should always load front to back. Avoid loading anything on top of the van. Avoid overloading the vehicle.
  • Mind occupancy limits. Never exceed the 15-passenger limit. If possible, keep the passenger count 10 or lower to reduce rollover risk. Every passenger needs to wear a seatbelt.

For additional information, please see NHTSA’s PDF, Top Safety Recommendations for 15-Passenger Van Use.

Regular Maintenance is Key

Ensuring your safety and that of your passengers is more than just taking driving precautions. Regular maintenance of a 15-passenger van is a critical aspect often overlooked by many users. Neglecting this can exacerbate the already heightened risk associated with these vehicles.

One of the key contributors to accidents involving 15-passenger vans is the lack of attention to tire maintenance. As mentioned earlier, tire tread and inflation play a significant role in rollover accidents. Therefore, if you choose to own a van, make it a habit to check the tire pressure, tread wear, and overall condition on a regular basis. This simple routine can significantly reduce the chances of a tire-related incident.

Moreover, a well-maintained engine and braking system are equally crucial. Regularly scheduled maintenance checks, including oil changes, brake inspections, and fluid top-ups, are essential to ensure the van operates at its optimal capacity. Failure to address these aspects could lead to mechanical failures, increasing the likelihood of accidents.

Call us if You’ve Been in a Van Crash

If you’ve been a victim of a van crash, please call our law offices. You may be eligible to receive compensation.

In a passenger van accident, there may be multiple responsible parties and an experienced personal injury lawyer can help investigate and pursue all sources of funds on your behalf.  There’s no cost to schedule a free consultation at either our Tacoma or Olympia location. Please reach out.

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