Fifteen-passenger vans, which make up about 0.25 percent of the passenger vehicle fleet in the United States, are frequently used to transport school sports teams, van pools, church groups, and other groups. Although they are involved in a proportionate number of fatal accidents compared to their percentage in the fleet, they are involved in a higher number of single-vehicle accidents involving rollovers than are other passenger vehicles. Various factors have been associated with 15-passenger van rollover, particularly occupancy level and vehicle speed. Because these vans are designed to carry 15 passengers, the Safety Board is particularly concerned about the relationship between occupancy level and vehicle rollover. Fully loading or nearly loading a 15-passenger van causes the center of gravity to move rearward and upward, which increases its rollover propensity and could increase the potential for driver loss of control in emergency maneuvers.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been evaluating vehicle rollover for several years. NHTSA has initiated rulemaking activities concerning vehicle rollovers, established a rollover resistance rating system, and is currently examining dynamic testing procedures; however, these programs have not been extended to 15-passenger vans. The Safety Board is concerned that NHTSA has not included 15-passenger vans in the dynamic testing or proposed rollover resistance ratings for this class of vehicle, given their high rate of rollover involvement in single-vehicle accidents, particularly under fully or nearly loaded conditions.
As a result of this safety report, the National Transportation Safety Board issued new safety recommendations to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the manufacturers of 15-passenger vans.