Passenger Vans

Overview

NHTSA research shows that 15-passenger vans have a rollover risk that increases dramatically as the number of occupants increases from fewer than five to more than ten. In this section we recommend that drivers insist all occupants wear safety belts at all times; that drivers of 15-passenger vans are trained and experienced; tires are checked at least once a week, using the manufacturer’s recommended pressure levels; and no loads are placed on the roof of the vehicle.

The Topic

Safety Precautions

Tire Pressure

Inspect the tires and check tire pressure before each use. A van’s tires need to be properly inflated and the tread should not be worn down. Excessively worn or improperly inflated tires can lead to a loss of vehicle control and possibly a rollover. Pressure for front and back tires may be different, and pressure is likely higher than that required for car tires. A placard on the driver’s side B-pillar or the owner’s manual lists manufacturer recommended tire size and pressure.

Spares

Avoid using old spares when replacing worn tires since all tires, even unused tires, weaken with age. Used 15-passenger vans may come with new looking spare tires that are many years old and could be dangerous.

Driver

15-passenger vans should only be operated by trained, experienced drivers who operate these vehicles on a regular basis. The driver needs to possess a valid driver’s license for state of residence (a commercial driver’s license is preferred). 15-passenger van drivers need additional training since these vehicles handle differently than passenger cars, especially when fully loaded.

Attention

Driver should be well-rested and attentive to driving at all times. Cell phone use by the driver while the van is in motion should be prohibited. Driver should also limit conversation with other passengers, and drive time should be limited to eight hours per 24-hour period.

Size

A 15-passenger van is substantially longer and wider than a car, and thus requires more space to maneuver. It also requires additional reliance on the side-view mirrors for changing lanes.

Speed

Drive at a safe speed based on driving conditions. Driver should never exceed the posted speed limit. Always slow down if the roads are wet or icy because 15-passenger vans do not respond well to abrupt steering maneuvers and require additional braking time.

Occupancy

Never allow more than 15 people to ride in a 15-passenger van. When the van is not full, passengers should sit in seats that are in front of the rear axle.

Cargo

Cargo should be placed forward of the rear axle and placing any loads on the roof should be avoided. Do not tow anything behind the van. See the vehicle owner’s manual for maximum weight of passengers and cargo and avoid overloading the van.

Seat Belts

All occupants need to wear seat belts at all times. Inspect seat belts regularly and replace any missing, broken or damaged belts and/or buckles. An unrestrained 15-passenger van occupant involved in a single-vehicle crash is approximately three times as likely to be killed as a restrained occupant.

The Topic

Passenger Van Dangers

While 15-passenger vans are convenient, drivers and passengers must use caution to minimize the risks associated with these vehicles. NHTSA research has shown that 15-passenger vans have a rollover risk that increases dramatically as the number of occupants increases from fewer than five to more than ten. In fact, 15-passenger vans with 10 or more occupants had a rollover rate in single-vehicle crashes that is nearly three times the rate of those that had fewer than five occupants.

The Topic

Advanced Safety Technology

Advanced safety technologies provide consumers with vehicle innovations that save lives. These new technologies are capable of eliminating 94 percent of fatal crashes involving human error.

Today, many new vehicles offer Automatic Emergency Braking, which can sense danger ahead and apply the brakes to prevent crashes. In the not-too-distant future, automated safety technologies will use on-board sensors, GPS, cameras, and telecommunications to “see” the world around them and help us drive safely through it. Explore new and emerging forms of safety technology below.

Stability Control

Electronic stability control (ESC), standard in all vehicles as of 2011, helps drivers maintain control of their vehicle during extreme steering maneuvers by keeping the vehicle headed in the driver’s intended direction, even when the vehicle nears or exceeds the limits of road traction.

When drivers attempt an extreme maneuver (for example, to avoid a crash or because a curve’s severity has been misjudged), they may experience unfamiliar vehicle handling characteristics as the vehicle nears the limits of road traction. The result is a loss of control. This loss usually results in either the rear of the vehicle "spinning out," or the front of the vehicle "plowing out." 

A professional driver, with sufficient road traction, could maintain control in an extreme maneuver by using various techniques, such as countersteering (momentarily turning away from the intended direction). It would be unlikely, however, for an average driver to properly apply countersteering techniques in a panic situation to regain vehicle control.

How ESC Works

Electronic Stability Control (ESC) uses automatic braking of individual wheels to prevent the heading from changing too quickly (spinning out) or not quickly enough (plowing out). ESC cannot increase the available traction, but maximizes the possibility of keeping the vehicle under control and on the road during extreme maneuvers by using the driver’s natural reaction of steering in the intended direction.

ESC works so quickly that drivers do not perceive the need for steering corrections. If drivers do brake because the curve is more or less sharp than anticipated, the system is still capable of generating uneven braking if necessary to correct the heading.

ESC systems exist under many trade names, including Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Electronic Stability Program (ESP), and Vehicle Stability Enhancement (VSE).

Forward Collision

What is a forward collision warning system?

A forward collision warning (FCW) system is an advanced safety technology that monitors a vehicle’s speed, the speed of the vehicle in front of it, and the distance between the vehicles. If vehicles get too close due to the speed of the rear vehicle, the FCW system will warn that driver of an impending crash. It’s important to note that FCW systems do not take full control of the vehicle or keep the driver from operating it.

How does it work?

FCW systems use sensors to detect slower-moving or stationary vehicles. When the distance between vehicles becomes so short that a crash is imminent, a signal alerts the driver so that the driver can apply the brakes or take evasive action, such as steering, to prevent a potential crash. Vehicles with this technology provide drivers with an audible alert, a visual display, or other warning signals.

What types of crashes does it prevent?

FCW systems help prevent frontal crashes into the rear of slower moving or stopped vehicles.

Does NHTSA recommend forward collision warning systems?

Yes. FCW systems meet NHTSA’s performance specifications, and we recommend you look for this technology when shopping for a vehicle.

What is the current state of this technology?

Today, FCW systems are an option on many new cars, SUVs and trucks. To find out if FCW is available in the vehicle you’re interested in buying, visit NHTSA’s 5-Star Safety Ratings and search for 2011 vehicles and newer.

Lane Departure

What is a lane departure warning system?

A lane departure warning (LDW) system is an advanced safety technology that alerts drivers when they unintentionally drift out of their lanes without a turn signal. It’s important to note that LDW systems do not take full control of the vehicle or keep the driver from operating it.

How does it work?

LDW systems use a camera to monitor lane markings and detect when a vehicle is drifting out of its lane of traffic. When it detects that a vehicle is veering out of its lane, an audio, visual, or other alert warns the driver of the unintentional lane shifts so the driver can steer the vehicle back into its lane.

What types of crashes does it prevent?

LDW systems provide a valuable safety benefit, and can help keep you and your passengers safe from crashes such as:

Striking a car in an adjoining lane, which could either involve “sideswiping” a vehicle traveling in the same direction or hitting a vehicle traveling in the opposite direction; and

A rollover, which often occurs when a vehicle leaves the road.

Does NHTSA recommend lane departure warning systems?

Yes. LDW systems meet NHTSA’s performance specifications, and we recommend you look for this technology when shopping for a vehicle.

What is the current state of this technology?

Today, LDW systems are an option on many new cars, SUVs, and trucks. To find out if LDW is available in the vehicle you’re interested in buying, visit NHTSA’s 5-Star Safety Ratings and search for 2011 vehicles and newer.

The Topic

Resources

Search for more resources

6 Results
Title Type Audience Date
 
NHTSA urges 15-passenger van users to always check tires before driving
Press Release Advocacy Groups 05/28/2015
Crash Investigation Sampling System (CISS) Brochure PDF, 893.16 KB
Document Federal Government 12/01/2014
2003-Final Theft Data - Federal Register PDF, 882 KB
Document Federal Government
Highway Safety - Related Highway Safety Provisions PDF, 578.73 KB
Document Advocacy Groups
MOTOR VEHICLE SAFETY PROVISIONS PDF, 42.14 KB
Document Federal Government
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