15-passenger vans are often used by churches and schools and as shuttles for tourists and vacationers. They pose a unique rollover danger due to a combination of factors including a high center of gravity, elevated roof-crush risk, and faulty tires. Due to loopholes in the law, these vans are exempt from many safety regulations which apply to passenger cars, school buses, and commercial vehicles.
Why 15 passenger vans roll
15 passenger vans have a high center of gravity. When the van is occupied by 10 or more people the weight of the occupants moves the center of gravity upward and toward the rear of the vehicle, making them even easier to roll. Shifting the weight up and to the rear also makes it more difficult to control the vehicle when braking or swerving in an emergency. Rollover rates for the vans when loaded with 10 or more people are nearly three times the rate for those loaded with fewer than five occupants.
Tire failure, due to a blowout or tread separation, is often involved in large passenger van rollovers. When a tire fails, its causes the van to skid sideways and trip, and the higher center of gravity provides extra momentum for rolling.
Exempt from safety laws
Vehicle manufacturers are required to abide by the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS), which are issued by The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA). Due to loopholes in these safety laws, 15-passenger vans are not classified as passenger cars, school buses, or commercial vehicles.
They are classified as buses, but not school buses, so they escape the strict regulations on school buses. Since they are not classified as passenger cars, so they do not have to conform to the safety standards imposed on SUV's and cars. Since they do not carry 16 or more passengers, they are not considered commercial vehicles, and so do not require special training for drivers, pre-trip inspections, or occupant protection.
Among many of the regulations from which 15-passenger vans are exempt is the rule for roof crush resistance - FMVSS 216. Roof crush is the primary cause of serious and fatal injuries in rollover accidents. While FMVSS 216 sets a high standard for passenger cars, the least likely type of vehicle to roll, SUVs and pickups are held to an inadequate standard and 15 passenger vans are exempt from the rule altogether.
Roof crush injuries can include:
- Neck fractures
- Spinal cord injury
- Head injury
- Brain injury
- Ejection injuries
Learn more by reading our Roof Crush page.
If the attempts of the NHTSA and consumer organizations are successful in their efforts to improve 15 passenger van safety, newly manufactured 15 passenger vans will be more strictly regulated, but those already on the road will still pose a hazard.
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a 15 passenger van or SUV rollover accident, please e-mail us today to speak with an experienced rollover lawyer.