Despite the fact that 15-passenger vans are increasingly popular with commuters, they are not always safe in the hands of an inexperienced driver. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration warns that the risk of rollover when the van is overloaded is high, and having a rollover crash with a 15-passenger van might be fatal.
A popular method of getting around – with a catch
Church groups, colleges, youth sports teams, more and more people love to use 15-passenger vans to get around. However, crash data from 2003 to 2007 suggests that the more people are riding along in the van, the greater the risk of a rollover is going to be – even if the vehicle is involved in a single-vehicle accident. Despite the fact that these are heavily advertised as being able to carry 15 passengers, the rollover rate was nearly three times as high with only 10 or more occupants when compared to the van carrying fewer than five people.
Why this is such a dangerous situation
A number of different factors give a 15-passenger van a much higher risk of rollover. For starters, more passengers and more cargo will shift the center of gravity towards the rear of the vehicle. This is going to lead to instability and increases the chances of the driver not being able to maintain control during emergency handling maneuvers. Despite the fact that all new vehicles (including 15-passenger vans) are required to have electronic stability control systems, the older models still in circulation might not have that preventative safety technology.
Also, consider that most motorists behind the wheel of a 15-passenger van have little to no experience when it comes to driving large vans. These larger vehicles handle very differently from light trucks and smaller cars, mainly because of their dimensions. Finally, the study also suggested that for those passengers killed in rollover crashes while riding in a 15-passenger van, almost 80 percent was not wearing a seatbelt. Many occupants see these vans as different from a car or large truck.
What situations can cause a rollover?
Before we continue, you have to remember that a rollover crash is a complex event. The design of the vehicle, road characteristics, and the driver all play a role. However, in single-vehicle crashes, studies suggest that more than 90 percent of all crashes were attributed to the driver losing control of the vehicle. Three major situations may increase the odds of a rollover.
- Going off a rural road – The van might overturn when it hits an embankment or ditch. Alternatively, running onto soft soil or when the van is tripped by an object might also increase the problem.
- The driver is going too fast or fatigued – Just as with most car accidents, the primary reason for the accident is often the driver. Especially with the different center of gravity, a 15-person van accident can easily occur when the driver is not observant to his or her surroundings.
- The driver overcorrects – When a wheel drops off the pavement or when the driver spots an emergency, chances are that they will overcorrect. This may lead to the driver losing control and rolling over, especially at freeway speeds.
Despite the fact that driving a 15-person van is completely legal, that does not mean precautions are not necessary. As these vans become a more popular form of transportation, chances are that we will see the number of fatal accidents increase as well until people realize that these vans might be dangerous when driven by inexperienced drivers.