Are You Sure Your Group is Traveling Safely?

vans

15-passenger vans are commonly used by churches, day-cares and elder-care centers, universities, airport shuttle services, and hotels—to name a few.  You may be surprised to learn that these vehicles are one of the most dangerous vehicles on the road in terms of rollovers. 

In the last two weeks, there have been two tragic crashes involving 15-passenger vans used by church groups that have led to 10 people dying and critically injuring 23 other people.  In the lastest crash, a pastor and three others were killed when the van carrying them to a church revival blew a tire and flipped several times, ejecting all on board.  The week before, six people were killed in another crash when a tire blew out on a Ford van carrying 14 passengers.  

These vans look like any other van, except they have been lengthened to hold more riders.  The problem is, when the van is fully  loaded, it is three times more likely to roll over in an emergency.  Those driving or traveling in  15-passenger vans should be aware of the dangers and pay special attention to tire maintenance, seat-belt usage and road conditions.   

SAFETY RECOMMENDATIONS

TIRE PRESSURE:  Improperly inflated tires can lead to loss of vehicle control and rollovers.  Owners and drivers should regularly check tire pressure and be aware of manufacturer recommendations.  Pressure guidelines for front and back tires can be different and are likely higher than pressure required for car tires. 

AGE OF TIRES:  Out of date and excessively worn tires are significant factors in rollovers.  Owners should check carefully for manufacturer requirements regarding replacement of tires.  Some manufacturers require that tires be replaced every six years regardless of use.  Owners  and drivers should avoid using spares when replacing worn tires since all tires, even unused tires can weaken with age.     Manufacturers recommend that tire size and pressure can be found in the owner’s manual or on the driver’s side B-pillar.  

In order to determine tire age, you must check the DOT date code located on the inboard sidewall of the tire.  The DOT code will be at the end of the grouping of characters which begin with the letters “DOT” and end with either three or four digits.  If ending in three digits, the tire was manufactured prior to 2000.  For example, if the three digits are “168,” the tire was manufactured in the 16th week of 1998–the last digit refers to the year manufactured and the first two digits refer to the week in that year.  If ending in four digits, the tire was manufactured in 2000 or later.  The first two digits are the week and the last two digits are the year.  For example, “2303” would be the 23rd week of 2003.

DRIVER EXPERIENCE:  15-passenger vans should only be operated by trained, experienced drivers who operate these vehicles regularly.  Most states will require a commercial driver’s license to operate this type of vehicle.  Because these vehicles have a different center of gravity, it is essential that drivers have experience and training in driving, especially when fully loaded.

SEAT-BELTS:  All occupants should be restrained by seat-belts.  Seat-belts should be inspected regularly to ensure proper operation and all missing or broken parts should be replaced.  An unrestrained passenger in a 15-passenger van involved in a crash is three times as likely to be killed as a restrained passenger.  One contributing factor to ejection is that side window glass is often made from cheaper glass which is far less likely to keep passengers from being ejected during a crash.

OCCUPANCY:  When five or more passengers are riding in these vans, the likelihood of rollover increases dramatically.  Never allow more than 15 passengers to travel in a van and when the van is not full, passengers should sit in seats that are in front of the rear axle.  

If you are a parent, please be aware that federal law prohibits the use of 15-passenger vans for school-related transport of high school age and younger students.  These vans are still used widely by churches, senior centers and childcare centers for transporting small groups.

Are you and/or your children riding to work, daycare, or church related activities in a 15-passenger van? Do you think there should be stronger federal regulations regarding the use of these vans? What will you do to ensure safety when traveling in these vehicles?

Join hands with Lexlee’s Kids in caring for our kid’s safety. For more information about 15-passenger vans, please visit www.lexleeskids.com or call 225.761.7272.