Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Van Rollovers

Because it’s 3 times more likely to rollover with 10 or more occupants, a 15-passenger van is the most dangerous vehicle on the road.

Half a million 15-passenger vans are currently operating often by schools, day care centers, hotels, churches, and scout troops.

Since 2000, more than 400 people have died and thousands have been seriously injured in 15-passenger van rollover accidents involving roof pillar failure or collapse (causing the roof to crush the passengers), tire failures, seatback failures, seatbelt injuries, lack of headrests, lack of glazing of windows, fuel-fed fires, gas tank fires, and fuel tank explosions.

The federal government has banned their purchase by schools, most insurers won’t cover them, and several universities no longer permit athletes to be transported in 15-passenger vans.

Engineers place the problem in the van’s design, weight and balance. First, the van’s manufacture with a car’s wheel base and an “extended back end” comprised of a 4 passenger seat behind the rear axle weigh down the rear end causing it to swing out following a “sudden swerve”, i.e., emergency action after steering in one direction and then being forced to rapidly correct in the opposite to avoid a hazard.

Second, 15-passenger vans are top heavy with a high center of gravity which increases with additional passengers.

According to National Highway Traffic Safety Association (“NHTSA”) research, 15-passenger van’s rollover risk increases dramatically with the number of occupants in that vans with 10 or more occupants have 3 times the rollover rate as those with fewer than 5 occupants.

Although research has consistently shown that improperly inflated tires drastically change the vehicle’s handling and significantly increase the prospect of a rollover, a recent NHTSA research reports that 74% of all 15-passenger vans had incorrectly inflated tires.

For the 3rd time in the past 5 years, NHTSA has issued a “15-passenger van consumer advisory” recommending that only trained and experienced drivers operate the vans, weekly check tire inflation levels against manufacturer's recommended pressure levels, and place no loads on the vehicle’s roof.