Safety Tips: Operating 15-passenger Vans

15-passenger vans are invaluable as they can help transport large groups of people to one destination. However, they also carry unique risks that can be potentially deadly without proper precautions in place. In fact, recent research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that 15-passenger vans are more likely to be involved in single-vehicle rollover crashes—accidents that result in a vehicle being tipped on its side or roof—than other types of vehicles.

With this in mind, it’s crucial to take steps to identify and mitigate the risks that come with operating 15-passenger vans. Review the following guidance for an outline of common hazards associated with 15-passenger vans and safe driving practices you can implement to avoid these hazards.

Common Hazards of 15-passenger Vans

Often, 15-passenger vans are the vehicles of choice for such transportation due to their ability to carry many people. However, these vehicles come with several hazards that can put both passengers and drivers at risk.

Some of the most common hazards associated with 15-passenger vans include overloading, inadequate vehicle maintenance, driver inexperience and an increased risk of rollover accidents—all of which can lead to severe injuries and fatalities. As such, being aware of 

these hazards and taking appropriate precautions is crucial to ensure everyone arrives at their destination safely.

Safe Driving Practices for 15-passenger Vans

Be sure to follow these safe driving measures when operating 15-passenger vans at camp:

  • Never allow more than 15 occupants within a 15-passenger van. Have passengers fill the van from front to back. If every seat in the van is not occupied, have passengers sit only in forward-facing seats in front of the rear axle to increase vehicle stability.
  • Require passengers to wear their seat belts at all times.
  • Conduct a pre-trip inspection and address any vehicle maintenance concerns before each journey, including broken or damaged parts and general wear and tear issues. Pay special attention to the brakes, steering, seat belts and tires (this includes making sure tires are fully inflated). Replace vehicle parts as needed.
  • Drive in the right-hand lane whenever possible.
  • Keep at least a four-second distance behind other traffic. In poor conditions, keep at least a six-second distance.
  • Avoid being in other vehicles’ blind spots and backing up as much as possible.
  • Obey the speed limit at all times, and consider driving under the speed limit when necessary (e.g., in poor weather conditions or heavy traffic). Exercise extra caution on steep or curved roads.
  • Take all turns slowly. Remember that 15-passenger vans can’t handle abrupt maneuvers.
  • Avoid panicked steering and hard braking. If an emergency occurs on the road, slow down and pull over in a safe manner as soon as possible.
  • Distribute passengers and cargo evenly on the left and right sides of the van. Place cargo in front of the rear axle. Insist that passengers sit toward the front of the van (if possible).
  • Don’t overload the van with passengers or cargo. Never load items on top of the van.
  • Stay focused on the road at all times. Never use a hand-held device while driving, and limit conversation with passengers. Avoid driving when fatigued.
  • Make sure the van has an emergency kit. This kit should include a spare tire, wheel wrench, tripod jack, flares or triangle reflectors, toolbox, first-aid kit, blanket, flashlight and extra batteries.

For more safety guidance, speak with your supervisor.