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American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Buses American Government


April 9, 2001

April 9, 2001
Media Calls: Rae Tyson (202) 366-9550
Consumer Calls: Auto Safety Hotline 1-888-327-4236

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is issuing a cautionary warning to users of 15-passenger vans because of an increased rollover risk under certain conditions.

The results of a recent analysis by NHTSA revealed that 15-passenger vans have a rollover risk that is similar to other light trucks and vans when carrying a few passengers. However, the risk of rollover increases dramatically as the number of occupants increases from fewer than five occupants to over ten passengers.

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 were lightly loaded.

NHTSA's analysis revealed that loading the 15-passenger van causes the center of gravity to shift rearward and upward increasing the likelihood of rollover. The shift in the center of gravity will also increase the potential for loss of control in panic maneuvers.

Because of these risks, it is important that these vans be operated by experienced drivers. A person transporting 16 or more people for commercial purposes is required to have a Commercial Driver's License, which requires certain specialized knowledge and driving skills. Although the drivers of these vehicles are not required to possess a Commercial Driver's License, they should still understand and be familiar with the handling characteristics of their vans, especially when the van is fully loaded.

NHTSA's analysis reinforces the value of seat belts. Eighty percent of those nationwide who died last year in single vehicle rollovers last year were not buckled up. Wearing seat belts dramatically increases the chances of survival during a rollover crash. NHTSA urges that institutions using 15-passenger vans require seat belt use at all times.

NHTSA is making this information available because of these findings and because of several highly publicized rollover accidents involving 15-passenger vans loaded with college students (often driven by a fellow student rather than a professional driver).

While federal law prohibits the sale of 15-passenger vans for the school-related transport of high school age and younger students, no such prohibition exists for vehicles to transport college students or other passengers.

A copy of the NHTSA analysis of the rollover characteristics of 15-passenger vans can be found at: http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/departments/nrd-12/23rev.html.


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