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KDOT: 15-passenger vans have high rollover rate making seat belts a must


August 8, 2003 Release 03-105

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
For more information, contact:
Rosalie Thornburgh or Pati Pomeroy
KDOT Bureau of Traffic Safety: (785) 296-3756

KDOT: 15-passenger vans have high rollover rate making seat belts a must

The Kansas Department of Transportation, Bureau of Traffic Safety is reminding Kansans that vans that carry 15 passengers – popular among church and community groups – have a high propensity to roll over in certain circumstances, making the use of seat belts an absolute priority.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the risk of rollover increases as the number of passengers grows. In fact, 15-passenger vans with 10 or more occupants have a rollover rate in single-vehicle crashes that’s nearly three times the rate of those that were lightly loaded.

“There are precautions that can be taken to minimize the danger of traveling in a 15-passenger van,” said Rosalie Thornburgh, chief of the Bureau of Traffic Safety. “For example, these vans should be driven by someone with training and experience. Because of the high center of gravity, the vans react differently than a typical car when the driver is executing some sudden maneuver. And the use of seat belts at all times, in all seating positions is a must.”

The vans become more and more top-heavy as the number of passengers, and the amount of cargo, increases. Because of that high center of gravity, vans can become unstable when a driver makes a sudden maneuver, such as swerving. More than 90 percent of rollover accidents involving 15-passenger vans occur after a driver has lost control of the vehicle and run off the road, often after a wheel or wheels dropped off the pavement.

Between 1990 and 2000 in the U.S., 864 occupants of 15-passenger vans died in crashes, 424 of them in single vehicle rollover crashes. From 1991 to 2000, 33 percent of passenger vehicles involved in single-vehicle, fatal accidents experienced a rollover compared to 52 percent for 15-passenger vans. Also, 81 percent of all 15-passenger van occupant fatalities occurred in single-vehicle rollover accident.

NHTSA is so concerned about the rollover risk that it is considering adding labels warning of the dangers – and urging seat belt use – inside the passenger compartments on vans.

Seat belt use is critical for passengers of large vans. NHTSA reports 80 percent of those who died in 15-passenger van rollovers in 2000 were not buckled up. In the past decade, 92 percent of van passengers who were wearing seat belts during a single-vehicle rollover survived.

In addition to buckling up, Thornburgh also stressed the importance of routinely checking pressure and tread wear on tires.