Widely popular, 15-passenger vans are commonly used for commercial and social purposes because of the number of passengers they can hold. Churches use them frequently for transporting members to and from services, institutions of learning fill them for school-related activities, and businesses use them to ferry clients.
However, their convenience is decidedly hampered by the numerous safety concerns surrounding their operation.
The risks involved with operating a 15-passenger van are more pronounced with inexperienced drivers because the van does not handle like other consumer vehicles on the road.
It is sometimes described as cumbersome and is prone to tipping. For this reason, heightened safety precautions are recommended and even mandated in some instances.
Despite these safety concerns, it does not appear as if 15-passenger vans are going anywhere anytime soon. Therefore, businesses and organizations that use them should understand the safety precautions so they can provide the safest transportation services for their members and clients.
You can take specific steps to minimize the risk of accident and injury when driving a 15-passenger van. These steps work in conjunction with one another to create a safer transportation experience. It is never safe to skip any of the following safety precautions.
A Seasoned Driver
To help ensure safe operation, organizations should only use drivers who have experience with 15-passenger vans. Inexperienced drivers need time to learn how to confidently control these vehicles. They can get the experience they need through on-the-job training and commercial licensing.
Some jurisdictions offer a commercial driver’s learner’s permit. With this temporary license, a driver can gain familiarity with a 15-passenger van while a seasoned permitted driver rides along in the front passenger seat.
Distracted driving is one of the main causes of car accidents. Some distracted drivers are lucky enough to dodge a potential accident by swerving just in time. However, 15-passenger vans don’t respond as well to quick, sudden commands, especially compared to smaller vehicles. A sharp turn to avoid something on the road can lead to a rollover.
Commercial drivers who pilot 15-passenger vans are under strict federal regulations that require them to drive no more than ten hours in a 15-hour period. This time restriction is to keep drivers sharp and attentive.
Speed limits should always be obeyed in any vehicle, especially a 15-passenger van. They are bulky vehicles that you can not maneuver like you can with smaller cars. Additionally, they require considerably more braking time than you would normally have with a standard consumer passenger vehicle.
A good approach to speed when driving a 15-passenger van is to calculate lag time in your braking distance estimates. Assume the van needs more braking time than it does and never drive faster than is necessary under the current conditions.
Seat belts make an undeniable difference in many of the outcomes of 15-passenger van accidents. Data shows that passengers without seat belts are four times more likely to be killed in a 15-passenger car accident than restrained passengers.
Drivers should always make sure their passengers have their seat belts buckled correctly for the entirety of a trip. Additionally, drivers should regularly inspect the condition of the safety restraints to ensure they are in proper working order.
Occupancy and Cargo Limits
Never allow more than 15 passengers in these types of vans. Overloading can lead to a serious accident. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), the more passengers you have, the higher the risk of a rollover. Additionally, there are not enough seat belts for more than 15 passengers.
When it comes to cargo, the most important recommendation is to never load cargo onto the roof. The extra weight and volume will make the van more unstable than it already is. Even with a roof rack, cargo up top makes 15-passenger vans unacceptably prone to tipping or rolling over.
You should also never surpass cargo limits established by the vehicle manufacturer and the law. When loading the van, the NHTSA recommends placing the cargo in front of the rear axle for the best support and distribution of weight.
Tire Pressure and Condition
Unmaintained tires are a hazard for 15-passenger vans. Almost 11% of fatal accidents involving 15-passenger vans occurred due to tire failure. Tire pressure levels should be checked regularly. For commercial drivers, this should be done each day the vehicle is in use. Incorrect tire pressure is a frequent cause of rollovers and blowouts.
The recurring problem of underinflated tires prompted the NHTSA to take action. In 2005, it established regulations that require vehicles under 10,000 pounds to be equipped with a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) that warns drivers when a tire is inflated at 25% below what it should be.
Tires should also be inspected for wear. As with tire pressure, tire condition should be checked daily. Any sign of tread wear beyond acceptable limits should be dealt with immediately. Worn tires cause blowouts and accidents.
Constant awareness of the 15-passenger vehicle’s size is necessary to safely drive on the roadways. As they are longer than standard consumer vehicles, special care must be taken when maneuvering these vans in and out of traffic.
Drivers should give themselves extra room when passing other vehicles, which should be done only if necessary.
When backing out into traffic, the extra length of the van can prove to be a hazard without proper visibility. Maneuvers such as this should not be attempted unless the driver has full visibility of surrounding traffic and can successfully judge the distance and speed of approaching cars.
Additionally, 15-passenger vans should only be driven by those who have experience operating them and who take extra care while driving. Although the dangers involved with using these vans cannot be entirely eliminated, safety precautions can be taken to reduce the risks involved.
Since 1992, our personal injury attorneys at the Pines Salomon Injury Lawyers, APC. have been fighting for the people of San Diego. Now, when those injured in automobile accidents – including car, truck, and motorcycle accidents – need financial help, or for the families that need to know that the loss of a loved one could have been prevented, there is a personal injury law firm in San Diego that is on their side. If you or a family member has been injured, call the lawyers at Pines Salomon Injury Lawyers, APC. There’s never been a better time than right now to speak to a personal injury attorney—FREE of charge. Call us at 858-551-2090 or request a free consultation online today!
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Michael Pines is a former insurance company attorney who graduated from the University of California Hastings College of the Law in 1987. While he was an insurance attorney, he learned from behind the scenes how insurance companies work and how they decide how much to pay injured people. Now that he works against insurance companies, Michael’s inside knowledge has resulted in significant benefits to his clients injured in car accidents. Learn more about Michael Pines