April 16, 2002

Traffic safety organization repeats rollover warning for 15 passenger vans

Washington, D.C. – The U.S.A’s top motor vehicle safety executive, Jeffrey W. Runge, M.D., head of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), reissued a cautionary warning to users of 15-passenger vans because of an increased rollover risk under certain conditions. A similar warning was issued in 2001.

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 were lightly loaded.

“Because of these risks, it is vital that users of 15-passenger vans be aware of some safety precautions that will significantly reduce the risk,” said Dr. Runge. Among the recommendations are the following:

  • It is important that 15-passenger vans be operated by trained, experienced drivers.

  • Insist that all occupants wear seat belts at all times. Eighty percent of those who died in 15-passenger van rollovers nationwide in the year 2000 were not buckled up. Wearing seat belts dramatically increases the chances of survival during a rollover crash. In fatal, single-vehicle rollovers involving 15-passenger vans over the past decade, 92 percent of belted occupants survived compared to 23 percent for unbelted occupants.

NHTSA is reissuing this advisory to specifically alert summertime users of 15-passenger vans. The agency also has prepared a flyer on 15-passenger van safety that is available on the web at http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/. The agency also is considering the potential benefits of an additional warning label about rollover and seat belt use that would be visible to the driver and passengers of 15-passenger vans, respectively.

While U.S. 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: www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/ncsa/reports.html#Anchor-NCS-41871. The new consumer advisory also is available at: www.nhtsa.dot.gov/.

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