March 2014

  1. Are rollovers a big problem?

    A vehicle is classified as rolling over if it tips onto its side or roof at any time during a crash. Many rollovers lead to partial or full ejection of occupants from the vehicle, increasing the likelihood of injury or death. Vehicles roll over in 2 percent of all crashes, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 2013. Traffic safety facts, 2011. Report no. DOT HS-811-754. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Transportation. but these crashes account for more than a third of passenger vehicle occupant deaths. In 2012, 21,795 passenger vehicle occupants died in crashes of all kinds. Of those, 7,559 died in crashes where their vehicle rolled over.

  2. What causes a rollover?

    Most rollovers occur when a driver loses control of a vehicle, and it begins to slide sideways. When this happens, something can "trip" the vehicle and cause it to roll over. This tripping object could be a curb, guardrail, tree stump or soft or uneven ground on the side of the roadway. Rollovers also can occur when a driver attempts to turn a vehicle too aggressively — at a high velocity or with a tight turning radius. In such conditions, the frictional force between the tires and road surface can cause the vehicle to tip up and then roll over. These crashes generally are referred to as "untripped" or "frictional" rollovers. Less frequently, rollovers can happen when one side of a vehicle is flipped up suddenly by a guardrail or ramplike object or when a vehicle falls sideways or front-first down an embankment.

    The forces in a multiple-vehicle crash may also cause a vehicle to roll. For example, a vehicle struck in the side may be pushed over by the striking vehicle. However, about three-fourths of rollover deaths occur in single-vehicle crashes. More than half of all occupants killed in single-vehicle crashes are involved in rollovers.

  3. Are rollovers more common for SUVs than for other vehicles?

    Rollovers are much more common for SUVs and pickups than for cars, and more common for SUVs than for pickups. In 2012, 55 percent of SUV occupants killed in crashes were in vehicles that rolled over. In comparison, 46 percent of deaths in pickups and 24 percent of deaths in cars were in rollovers.

    Pickups and SUVs tend to be involved in rollovers more frequently than cars largely due to the physical differences of these vehicles. SUVs and pickups are taller than cars and have greater ground clearance, causing their mass to be distributed higher off the road relative to the width of the vehicle. Additional passengers and cargo can increase the center of gravity even more. Other things being equal, a vehicle with a higher center of gravity is more prone to roll over than a lower-riding vehicle. Robertson, L.S. and Kelley, A.B. 1988. Static stability as a predictor of overturn in fatal motor vehicle crashes. Journal of Trauma  29(3):313-9.

    Driver behavior may contribute to the increased rollover involvement rate of SUVs and pickups. Pickups and SUVs are more likely than cars to be driven on rural roads, where rollovers occur more frequently. Lower belt use among pickup occupants Pickrell, T.M. and Ye, T.J. 2014. Seatbelt use in 2013 – overall results. Report no. DOT HS-811-875. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. means they are more likely to be seriously or fatally injured when rollovers occur.

  4. How has the number of rollover fatalities changed over time?

    The number of fatalities in rollover crashes on U.S. roads increased as SUVs became more popular. However, the newest SUVs have much lower rollover fatality rates than earlier models, and even have lower rates than the newest cars. For 1-3-year-old passenger vehicles of all types, the rollover fatality rate has declined from 27 driver deaths per million registered vehicles in 2000 to 6 deaths per million in 2012. 

  5. What has been done to reduce the occurrence of rollovers?

    Manufacturers have created more stable vehicle designs. The static stability factor (SSF), a measurement of a vehicle's geometrical ability to resist rollover, increased an average of 6 percent for new SUVs between 1998 and 2003, after remaining constant for 20 years. Walz, M.C. 2005. Trends in the static stability factor of passenger cars, light trucks, and vans. Report no. DOT HS-809-868. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. SSF is calculated by dividing half of a vehicle's track width (the distance between the right and left tires) by its center of gravity height. Wider vehicles with centers of gravity closer to the ground tend to be more stable, but this measurement does not account for dynamic effects such as those due to a vehicle's suspension.

    Electronic stability control (ESC) helps prevent the sideways skidding and loss of control that can lead to rollovers. The percentage of new passenger vehicle models with standard ESC increased from 9 percent in the 2000 model year to 85 percent in the 2010 model year. Beginning with the 2012 model year, all passenger vehicles must be equipped with ESC.

  6. What are the rollover resistance ratings assigned by NHTSA?

    Since 2001 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has assigned rollover resistance ratings to vehicles (1 to 5 stars). These ratings can provide some indication about which specific vehicles are more likely to be involved in rollover crashes. Between 2001 and 2003, the ratings were calculated using SSF only. Beginning in 2004, the rollover resistance rating system was revised to combine the SSF with results from a dynamic handling test, but this test changes the star ratings of only a few vehicles. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. 2004. New rollover ratings reflect dynamic testing, but tests don't affect ratings very much. Status Report 39(3):6-7.

  7. How does electronic stability control work?

    ESC is a vehicle control system comprised of sensors, brakes, engine control modules and a microcomputer that continuously monitors how well a vehicle responds to a driver's steering input. The computer compares a driver's commands to the actual travel of the vehicle. In general, when the sensors indicate the vehicle is leaving the intended line of travel, ESC applies the brake pressure needed at each wheel to bring the vehicle back on track. In some cases, ESC also reduces engine speed. ESC has been found to reduce single-vehicle fatal crash risk by 49 percent.  It reduces the risk of fatal single-vehicle rollovers by 75 percent for SUVs and by 72 percent for cars.  Farmer, C.M. 2010. Effects of electronic stability control on fatal crash risk. Arlington, VA: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

  8. What can be done to reduce the likelihood and severity of injuries when rollovers occur?

    Safety belt use is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of injury or death in a rollover. Viano, D.C. and Parenteau, C.S. 2004. Rollover crash sensing and safety overview. SAE Technical Paper Series 2004-01-0342. Warrendale, PA: Society of Automotive Engineers. Sixty-seven percent of people killed in passenger vehicle rollover crashes in 2012 were unbelted. Without safety belts, occupants in vehicles that roll can be thrown from the vehicle, greatly increasing the risk of serious injury or death.

    When occupants are contained in the vehicle during a rollover, the performance of restraint systems and structural components is crucial to preventing injury. Head-protecting side curtain airbags triggered by rollover sensors can prevent the upper body from contacting the ground and also prevent occupants from being ejected from the vehicle. Good safety belt designs are important to hold occupants in their seats and away from the roof as much as possible. Finally, the roof and other vehicle structures must be strong enough to resist occupant compartment intrusion that can increase the risk of head and neck injury.

  9. Does roof strength matter in rollovers?

    During the past 30 years, there has been much debate about the association between roof crush in rollovers and serious head and neck injuries. Some studies have reported that roof strength and injury are not causally related but that occupants are injured as they "dive" into the roof before it crushes Bahling, G.S.; Bundorf, R.T.; Kaspzyk, G.S.; Moffatt, E.A.; Orlowski, K.F.; and Stocke, J.E. 1990. Rollover and drop tests – the influence of roof strength on injury mechanics using belted dummies. SAE Technical Paper Series 902314. Warrendale, PA: Society of Automotive Engineers. James, M.B.; Nordhagen, R.P.; Schneider, D.C.; and Koh, S.W. 2007. Occupant injury in rollover crashes: a reexamination of Malibu II. SAE Technical Paper Series 2007-01-0369. Warrendale, PA: Society of Automotive Engineers. Orlowski, K.F.; Bundorf, R.T.; and Moffatt, E.A. 1985. Rollover crash tests - the influence of roof strength on injury mechanics. SAE Technical Paper Series 851734. Warrendale, PA: Society of Automotive Engineers. Conversely, other researchers maintain that injuries occur when the roof buckles into the occupant compartment and contacts the people inside. Friedman, D. and Nash, C.E. 2001. Advanced roof design for rollover protection. Proceedings of the 17th International Technical Conference on the Enhanced Safety of Vehicles. Paper no. 01-S12-W-94. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Rechnitzer, G.; Lane, J.; McIntosh, A.S.; and Scott, G. 1998. Serious neck injuries in rollovers – is roof crush a factor? International Journal of Crashworthiness 3(3):286-94.

    The debate about how people are injured in rollovers has obscured the fact that a strong vehicle "safety cage" is an essential part of crashworthiness design in all types of crashes. Institute testing using front and side impact configurations shows that limiting intrusion in the occupant compartment is necessary to provide space for the occupant restraint systems to prevent injury. The same principle applies to rollovers. A 2008 Institute study found that strong roofs reduce the risk of fatal or incapacitating injury in rollover crashes. This was confirmed by a second IIHS study using a different set of vehicles. Brumbelow, M.L.; Teoh, E.R.; Zuby, D.S.; and McCartt, A.T. 2009. Roof strength and injury risk in rollover crashes. Traffic Injury Prevention 10(6):252-65. Brumbelow, M.L. and Teoh, E.R. 2009. Roof strength and injury risk in rollover crashes of passenger cars. Traffic Injury Prevention  10:584-92. These were the first studies to demonstrate the link between roof strength and injury risk. They showed that stronger roofs reduce the risk of ejection and the risk of injury for occupants remaining in the vehicle. While the crash databases used in the studies did not specify how occupants were ejected, it is possible that strong roofs allow windshields and side windows to remain intact and doors to remain closed more often in rollovers. Other research has found these openings are common causes of ejection. Digges, K.H.; Malliaris, A.C.; and DeBlois, H.J. 1994. Opportunities for casualty reduction in rollover crashes. Proc. 14th International Technical Conference on the Enhanced Safety of Vehicles. Paper no. 94-S5-O-11. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

    Since the IIHS studies, two NHTSA studies have produced a similar finding when taken together. The first found that reduced roof intrusion is associated with lower injury risk, and the second showed a relationship between higher roof strength and lower roof intrusion. Strashny, A. 2007. The role of vertical roof intrusion and post-crash headroom in predicting roof contact injuries to the head, neck, or face during FMVSS no. 216 rollovers; an updated analysis. Report no. DOT-HS-810-847. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Austin, R. 2010. Roof strength testing and real-world roof intrusion in rollovers. Report no. DOT-HS-811-365. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

  10. Does roof strength still matter now that all vehicles have ESC?

    Even though all new vehicles are equipped with ESC, rollover crashes will continue to occur. NHTSA estimates that 5,000 to 6,000 rollover fatalities per year would still occur in a fleet fully equipped with ESC. Office of the Federal Register. 2006. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – Notice of proposed rulemaking. Docket no. NHTSA-2006-25801; 49 CFR Parts 571 and 585 – Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, Electronic stability control systems. Federal Register, vol. 71, no. 180, pp. 54712-53. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration.

    ESC can help a driver maintain control in some situations but not all. For example, ESC may not prevent a rollover-initiating impact with another vehicle or with a roadside obstacle, tire failure or complete loss of traction with the road surface due to weather conditions. Vehicles with ESC still need strong roofs and effective restraint systems to protect occupants in rollover crashes.

  11. What are the current federal standards for rollover crashworthiness?

    Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 216, Roof Crush Resistance, establishes a minimum requirement for roof strength to "reduce deaths and injuries due to the crushing of the roof into the occupant compartment in rollover crashes." In this test, a rigid plate is pushed into one side of the roof at a constant speed. The roof must be strong enough to prevent the plate from moving 5 inches when pushed at a force equal to 1½ times the weight of the vehicle. The test went into effect in 1973 and remained essentially unchanged until an updated rule was announced in 2009.

    The new rule requires that a roof withstand an applied force equal to 3 times the vehicle's weight while maintaining sufficient headroom for an average size adult male. While both sides of a vehicle's roof were required to meet the former standard, only one side was tested on any given vehicle. The new rule requires a second test of the same vehicle's roof on the opposite side. The new standard is being phased in beginning with 2013 model vehicles, and by the 2017 model year, 100 percent of each manufacturer's fleet must comply.

    The updated FMVSS 216 regulates the roof strength of many SUVs and pickup trucks by extending coverage to vehicles with gross weight ratings (GVWRs) up to 10,000 pounds. (GVWR is the weight of the vehicle plus the maximum load of passengers and cargo specified by the manufacturer.) In the past, the standard applied only to vehicles with GVWRs up to 6,000 pounds, which meant about 44 percent of the SUV and pickup fleets were exempt. Office of the Federal Register. 2005. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – Notice of proposed rulemaking. Docket no. NHTSA-2005-22143. 49 CFR Part 571 – Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, Roof crush resistance. Federal Register, vol. 70, no. 162, pp. 49223-48. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration. While the updated roof strength regulation applies to these vehicles, they aren't subject to the same force requirements. Instead of a force equal to 3 times the vehicle's weight, vehicles with GVWRs over 6,000 pounds are subject to a force equal to 1½ times their weight.

    A second federal standard for rollover crashworthiness went into effect beginning with 2014 models.  FMVSS No. 226, Ejection Mitigation, applies to side curtain airbags.  The intent of the standard is to ensure that, when deployed, such systems are sufficiently large and strong enough to prevent ejection through the side windows. While this could be a positive step for further reducing rollover injuries, the standard will not test whether the restraint systems actually deploy properly in rollover crash conditions.

  12. Why does IIHS rate roof strength?

    The Institute began publishing roof strength ratings in March 2009 after its research established that strong roofs reduce the risk of fatal or incapacitating injury in rollover crashes. At the time, the government was in the process of updating its outdated requirements for roof strength, but that effort was repeatedly delayed, and consumers had nowhere to turn for information on roof strength.

    To qualify for a good roof strength rating from the Institute, a vehicle must be able to withstand a force equal to 4 times its weight prior to 5 inches of crush. The government's updated regulation, which was announced in May 2009, eventually will force vehicles with gross weight ratings of 6,000 pounds or less to have roofs nearly as strong as that required for a good rating. The Institute is continuing its roof strength rating program, however, in part because it allows consumers to identify which vehicles already have stronger roofs, ahead of the government's deadline. It also may encourage manufacturers to make roofs even stronger than the new regulation will require, especially for heavier vehicles subject to the less strict requirements. Finally, the rating program will allow IIHS researchers to determine whether additional benefits exist for roofs stronger than those studied in the past.

  13. Should dynamic tests of roof strength in rollovers be conducted?

    The current federal standards specify two separate evaluations to address roof strength and side curtain airbags without actually rolling the vehicle. Dynamic testing that simulates a rollover crash offers the possibility of evaluating the effects of vehicle structure, occupant restraint systems and occupant movements in an overall crashworthiness assessment. Dynamic testing also may more accurately reproduce the forces acting on roofs in real-world crashes than the test method used by the government and in the IIHS roof strength rating program.

    However, because there is a wide range of rollover crashes, it is difficult to identify a single dynamic evaluation that is representative of most rollovers. Repeatability has been a problem with dynamic tests, as slight differences from one test to the next can significantly change the outcome. In addition, more research is needed to determine how to use dummies in rollover tests in a way that represents the movements and injury risks of people in real crashes. While certain dynamic tests hold promise, more work is necessary to address these issues.

March 2014

  1. What are 15-passenger vans?

    These are large vans with five rows of seats intended to transport up to 15 people, including the driver. The federal government classifies 15-passenger vans as buses for the purpose of vehicle safety standards. Office of the Federal Register. 2003. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – Final Rule. Docket No. HNTSA-2002-13704; 49 CFR Part 571 – Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards; Definition of Multifunction School Activity Bus. Federal Register, Vol. 68(147), pp. 44892-44901. Washington, DC: Office of the Federal Register, National Archives and Records Administration.

    Fifteen-passenger vans first appeared on the U.S. market in 1972 and gained popularity during the 1990s with annual registrations increasing from about 150,000 in 1990 to more than 500,000 in 2005. As of July 1, 2012, there were about 672,000 registered, comprising about 0.2 percent of the total U.S. passenger vehicle fleet. The Ford Econo Club E-350, which has been produced since the 1978 model year, is by far the most popular model, accounting for 62 percent of registrations. That model, the Chevrolet Express 3500 and GMC Savana 3500 are the only three 15-passenger vans currently in production.

    Number of registered 15-passenger vans by make and model, as of July 1, 2012
    Model yearsMake and modelRegistrations
    1978-2012Ford Econo Club E-350416,079
    1981-2002Dodge B350/3500118,616
    1996-2012Chevrolet Express 3500101,990
    1990-1996Chevrolet Sportvan 1T8,513
    1975-1980Dodge Maxivan B3008,912
    1997-2012GMC Savana 350014,592
    1990-1996GMC Rally 1T3,152
    Total671,854

    Note: Cargo versions of these vans are not included in these counts.

  2. Are occupants of 15-passenger vans more likely than occupants of other passenger vehicles to die in crashes?

    The driver death rate in 15-passenger vans is lower than in other passenger vehicles, but the occupant death rate in the vans is higher. During 2008-12, there were 33 driver deaths per million registered 15-passenger vans. This was less than half the driver death rate (70) for all other passenger vehicles combined (cars, minivans, pickups and SUVs). However, the death rate for all occupants, not just drivers, was higher for 15-passenger vans than for other passenger vehicle types combined — 123 versus 98 deaths per million registered vehicles.

    This is largely because 15-passenger vans tend to have much higher occupancy rates, so more people are at risk of dying when a crash occurs. Among passenger vehicles in fatal crashes during 2008-12, an average of four occupants died in 15-passenger vans, compared with two occupants in all other passenger vehicles combined.

  3. Who can drive 15-passenger vans?

    Although driver licensing is a state matter, states must follow federal standards for commercial drivers. These standards require drivers of vans designed to carry at least 16 occupants to have a commercial driver's license but do not apply to vans designed to carry fewer occupants. States may impose their own restrictions if vans are used commercially, but no special license is needed for uses such as transporting a sports team or church group.

    Licensing and training requirements for drivers of 15-passenger vans are a matter of concern because some van drivers may not operate such large vehicles on a regular basis. They may be unfamiliar with the way the vans handle and how they should be maintained.

    The safety consequences of extending commercial licensing requirements to drivers of 15-passenger vans are not known. If, for example, the result were fewer groups traveling by van because of a shortage of licensed drivers, then these occupants might spread out into multiple vehicles. The net safety effect of putting more vehicles on the road to transport the same number of people is unknown.

  4. Are there special handling issues for 15-passenger vans?

    Yes. Fifteen-passenger vans are larger than most other passenger vehicles, and an inexperienced driver may have difficulty negotiating corners, backing up or performing other maneuvers. These vans also have high centers of gravity, making them less stable than vehicles such as cars. Adding passengers raises a vehicle's center of gravity, so given the greater seating capacity of 15-passenger vans, they become increasingly difficult to handle and less stable as passengers are added.

  5. Are 15-passenger vans less stable than other vehicle types?

    Yes. A 2004 study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) looked at changes in the odds of rolling over in a single-vehicle crash as the number of occupants increased, after accounting for differences in weather and driver and roadway characteristics. Subramanian, R. 2004. Analysis of crashes involving 15-passenger vans. Report no. DOT HS-809-735. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The risk of a single-vehicle rollover crash was found to be lower for 15-passenger vans than for SUVs when the driver was traveling alone. However, adding occupants to either vehicle type increased the risk of rollover by 9-12 percent per occupant. The odds of rollover for a 15-passenger van increased more than 400 percent when fully loaded compared with a driver traveling alone. For other passenger vehicle types, the odds of rollover when fully loaded compared with a driver traveling alone increased 20 percent for cars, 50 percent for pickups and almost 100 percent for SUVs and minivans.

    Laboratory tests conducted for NHTSA found that the increased risk of rollover for 15-passenger vans was associated with their high centers of gravity. Garrott, W.R.; Rhea, B.; Subramanian, R.; and Heydinger, G.J. 2001. The rollover propensity of fifteen-passenger vans. Research note. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. When test vehicles were fully loaded, the center of gravity increased 0.9 inches for minivans, 1.4 inches for seven-passenger vans and 4 inches for 15-passenger vans.

    In 2008-12, 46 percent of the 175 rollover deaths in 15-passenger vans occurred in vans carrying at least 10 occupants, while only 37 percent of people who died in 15-passenger vans that did not roll over were riding in such heavily loaded vans.

  6. Is tire pressure a factor in crashes involving 15-passenger vans?

    Improperly inflated tires can affect any vehicle's stability, increasing the likelihood of a crash. In 2005, NHTSA published the results of a survey on tire pressures among large vans. The sample included 937 15-passenger vans used by different types of organizations at 16 locations across the United States. Fifty-seven percent of the vans had at least one tire underinflated by 25 percent or more, relative to the pressure recommended by the vehicle manufacturer. About 1 in 4 vans had at least one tire overinflated by 25 percent above the recommended pressure, and 6 percent had at least one tire inflated above the maximum pressure indicated on the tire sidewall. Thiriez, K.K.; Ferguson, E.; and Subramanian, R. 2005. 12 & 15 passenger vans tire pressure study: preliminary results. Traffic safety facts, Research note. Report no. DOT HS-809-846. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In a separate survey, NHTSA found that about 30 percent of cars, minivans, pickups and SUVs had at least one underinflated tire. Thiriez, K. and Bondy, N. 2003. NHTSA's tire pressure special study, February 2001. Paper 256. Proceedings of the 18th International Technical Conference on the Enhanced Safety of Vehicles (CD-ROM). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. However, the extent to which tire inflation has contributed to the crashes of 15-passenger vans is unknown. Also, automatic tire pressure monitoring systems are now standard on all new passenger vehicles, including 15-passenger vans.

  7. Does electronic stability control (ESC) help reduce the rollover propensity of 15-passenger vans?

    ESC has been found to reduce fatal single-vehicle crash risk by 49 percent and fatal multiple-vehicle crash risk by 20 percent for cars and SUVs. Many single-vehicle crashes involve rolling over, and ESC effectiveness in preventing rollovers is even more dramatic. It reduces the risk of fatal single-vehicle rollovers by 75 percent for SUVs and by 72 percent for cars. Farmer, C.M. 2010. Effects of electronic stability control on fatal crash risk. Arlington, VA: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. ESC is designed to help prevent drivers from losing control of their vehicles during high-speed maneuvers or on slippery roads. It is an extension of antilock brake technology with additional sensors that continuously monitor how well a vehicle is responding to a driver's steering input. When the sensors detect the vehicle is straying from the driver's intended line of travel, ESC brakes individual wheels to keep the vehicle under control. ESC also may modulate engine speed. All 2006 and later 15-passenger vans are equipped with ESC.

    In 2004, NHTSA began publishing the results of vehicle handling tests to rate the stability of some passenger vehicles. The tests are part of the rollover stability component of NHTSA's New Car Assessment Program (NCAP), which provides consumers with vehicle safety information. In the 2005 federal highway reauthorization act, Congress told NHTSA to begin conducting tests to rate the stability of 15-passenger vans. To date, NHTSA has conducted limited handling tests of 15-passenger vans. In tests of a 2003 Ford E-350 and 2004 GMC Savana 3500 with and without ESC, drivers of the ESC-equipped vans were less likely to lose control in the kinds of high-speed maneuvers that can result in rollover. Forkenbrok, G.J. and Garrott, W.R. 2004. Testing the rollover resistance of two 15-passenger vans with multiple load configurations. Report DOT no. HS-809-704. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Still, there are not enough ESC-equipped 15-passenger vans on the road to measure the real-world effects.

  8. What other safety features are available on 15-passenger vans?

    In addition to ESC, antilock brakes and front-row airbags, all of which are now standard on all 15-passenger vans, side-curtain airbags and laminated glass windows are standard on 2008-14 models of the Chevrolet Express 3500 and the GMC Savana 3500. The side-curtain airbags are the largest on the market and protect occupants in the first three rows of seating during side impacts, in addition to preventing ejection. Reinforced glass in the fourth and fifth rows, which resists breaking, also is designed to prevent ejection of occupants.

  9. Is belt use a factor in deaths of occupants of 15-passenger vans?

    Yes. During 2008-12, 60 percent of fatally injured 15-passenger van occupants were unrestrained. Among fatally injured van occupants who were not restrained, 52 percent were fully ejected from the vehicle. In comparison, among fatally injured occupants of other passenger vehicle types, non-use of belts ranged from 42 percent in cars and minivans to 61 percent in pickups, and the rate of total ejection among unrestrained occupants ranged from 30 percent for cars and minivans to 53 percent for SUVs. Current federal rules require lap/shoulder belts at all seating positions in all new passenger vehicles, including 15-passenger vans.

  10. Is alcohol a factor among drivers of 15-passenger vans involved in fatal crashes?

    Yes, but not as much as for drivers of other passenger vehicle types. During 2008-12, 18 percent of fatally injured drivers of 15-passenger vans had blood alcohol concentrations at or above 0.08 percent. This proportion was lower than for fatally injured drivers of cars (30 percent), SUVs (36 percent) or pickups (40 percent).

  11. Are there any government efforts aimed at organizations transporting people to reduce occupant fatality rates in 15-passenger vans?

    Most states require the use of school buses to transport children to and from school and school-related events, but some states do not. NHTSA recommends that preschool and school-age children not be transported in 15-passenger vans. The 2005 federal highway reauthorization act prohibits pre-primary, primary and secondary schools from purchasing, renting or leasing new 15-passenger vans to be used significantly to transport students to and from school and school-related activities unless the vans meet the federal standards for school buses or multifunctional school activity buses. The additional design standards for school buses — such as roof rollover protection and strong, closely spaced seats with padded, energy-absorbing seatbacks — provide greater occupant protection in the event of a crash.

    In 2001, NHTSA issued a consumer advisory recommending that 15-passenger vans be operated by experienced drivers familiar with handling such large vehicles. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 2001. Consumer advisory. Press release, April 9. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Transportation. Organizations using these vans were urged to require safety belt use at all times. Consumer advisories in 2004 and 2005 warned users of 15-passenger vans about an increased risk of rollover under certain conditions. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 2004. Press release, June 1. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Transportation. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 2005. Press release, May 26. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Transportation. In August 2003, NHTSA amended the school bus safety regulations to encourage churches and other groups to use buses instead of vans. Office of the Federal Register. 2003. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – Final Rule. Docket No. HNTSA-2002-13704; 49 CFR Part 571 – Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards; Definition of Multifunction School Activity Bus. Federal Register, Vol. 68(147), pp. 44892-44901. Washington, DC: Office of the Federal Register, National Archives and Records Administration.