April 15, 2002
NHTSA Rollover Warning To Users of
Jeffrey Runge, MD, Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration (NHTSA) today 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.
The agency also issued a new consumer flyer for 15-passenger van users. A
copy of the flyer can be downloaded from the NHTSA website:
NHTSA research has showed 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 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 important that 15-passenger 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 (CDL),
which requires certain specialized knowledge and driving skills. Although
the drivers of these private-use vehicles are not required to possess a CDL,
they should still understand and be familiar with the handling
characteristics of these vans, especially when the vehicle is fully loaded.
A new NHTSA analysis reinforces the value of seat belts. Eighty percent of
those who died nationwide in 15-passenger van rollovers in 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
urges that institutions using 15-passenger vans require seat belt use at all
NHTSA is reissuing this advisory to specifically alert summertime users of
15-passenger vans. The summer of 2001 saw several tragic rollover crashes
involving religious groups on trips. In the past, a number of rollover
crashes involved 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. NHTSA 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.