The high and narrow build of passenger vans can make them top-heavy and more likely to tip or rollover, especially when the driver is not experienced at driving these types of vehicles. Although the space and room inside these vehicles make them seem like a great family option, there are dangers involved with driving them. They handle differently and when loaded to capacity, can be at a higher risk to drive.
A woman with six children in her mini-van recently rolled twice on an Illinois highway. The woman was momentarily distracted and hit the edge of the road and tried to correct the vehicle. The quick movement caused the van to flip and roll twice into the ditch. All seven passengers were taken to the hospital. Luckily, the woman and six children all survived and did not sustain any life-threatening injuries.
As was the case with the woman in a smaller van, all vans tend to have a higher center of gravity than a passenger car, making them more likely to roll. However, 15-passenger vans are highly susceptible to rollovers. Compared to passenger cars and smaller vans, they have the highest rollover rate.
- According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 52% of 15-passenger vans involved in single-vehicle fatality accidents are rollovers, compared to only 33% of other passenger vehicles.
- 81% of occupant fatalities happen in rollovers that do not involve any other vehicles. This is extremely high and shows that other vehicles do not necessarily cause these accidents.
- The more people in the van, the higher risk of rollovers. 85% of single-vehicle rollover fatalities in these vans had 10-15 passengers, versus 28% with 5 or fewer passengers.
When driving any type of van, it is important to understand that they handle differently and that special care should be taken when driving. Swerving quickly and other moves that you can easily perform in a car may throw these higher gravity vehicles off balance. Consider these safety tips issued by the NHTSA when driving a passenger van:
- Check the tire pressure. Keeping the correct tire pressure is extremely important in vans. The pressure may be different for front and rear tires, so check the manufacturer recommendations.
- Do not overload. These vehicles tend to be more likely to roll when they are overloaded. Always try to keep the majority of weight towards the front of the vehicle. Carrying loads on the roof increases the top-heaviness of a van and is not recommended.
- Keep speed down. With the higher chance of rollover, high speeds put vans at an even higher risk.
Vans can be useful utility vehicles but it is important to understand their limitations. By using caution and following the safety tips you can reduce your chance of a rollover accident.