ALEA wants you practice 15-passenger van safety this summer

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - As the summer nears, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency wants to educate you about proper safety if you plan on taking a trip in a 15-passenger van.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says on its website, "15-passenger vans are in high demand and are prevalent on our nation’s roads. However, these cumbersome vehicles can pose a safety risk to inexperienced van drivers and other road users."

It recommends these tips if you plan on driving in, or using one:

  • Note that van drivers should insist that all occupants wear seat belts at all times
  • Insist that drivers of 15-passenger vans are trained and experienced
  • Make sure tires are checked at least once a week, using the manufacturer’s recommended pressure levels
  • Ensure that no loads are placed on the roof of the vehicle.

Check out this report WHNT News 19 did on these types of vans in 2014, following a wreck in Marshall County.

The NHTSA says that nearly 60 percent of fatalities in crashes involving 15-passenger vans were a result of the vehicles rolling over.

Trooper Curtis Summerville, Public Information Officer in ALEA, said, "We see an increase in auto crashes involving 15-passenger vans during this time of the year because people are traveling."

These vehicles have been called dangerous. "Vans have a high center of gravity, which makes them more susceptible to flipping or even the wind blowing them over," Summerville added.

Summerville said although you don't need a specific license to drive a 15-passenger van in Alabama, he recommends choosing an experienced driver to get behind the wheel.

"Choose maybe someone who has driven one before, because that person will understand the dynamics involved," he explained. "There's a little bit of difference between that and a regular passenger vehicle. You have weight shift, or weight transfer, and it can be due to momentum and can cause the van to flip over."

Summerville asks anyone who drives these vehicles to watch their speeds, particularly around corners or curves, and to note that physics may play into the van's required stopping distance depending on who you have riding along with you.

Safety belts also play a key role in safety for passengers in one of the vans.

"The seat belt laws that apply to a passenger van are the same as any personal vehicle. The front seat passengers are the only ones required to wear the seat belts," he noted, "but if you are under the age of 15 you are required to wear one also." But he said he recommends that everyone who is in the van wear the seat belt just to be sure.

For more safety tips, click here.