NTSB Wants Vans Tested

By Staff

Athletic Management, 15.2, February/March 2003, http://www.momentummedia.com/articles/am/am1502/wuntsbvans.htm

The 15-passenger vans many high school and college teams use to get to road contests are coming under still closer safety scrutiny from a federal agency.

Last fall, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommended that the vans be included in the rollover testing and rating system used for passenger cars, trucks, minivans, and sport-utility vehicles. The Board also asked automakers to consider installing electronic systems that sense instability and adjust the brake pressure and power sent to particular wheels to avoid swerving and rolling. Ford, maker of the popular Econoline series, and GM, which makes Chevrolet and GMC models, said they’d consider the recommendation.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has determined the vehicles’ risk of rolling over greatly increases when carrying 10 or more passengers, because a full load moves the vehicles’ center of gravity higher and rearward. They also lack the impact-protection side beams of more closely regulated vehicles, notes GuideOne Insurance, a church insurer that strongly advises clients to shun them.

At least one school, the University of Virginia, has decided to stop using the vans altogether. UVA’s Office of Risk Management announced in March that no more such vans would be bought or leased and weren’t to be used to transport people after July 1, 2004.

Tactics recommended to minimize the risk when using 15-passenger vans include avoiding overloading, using front seats first, and never putting anything on the roof. Experts also strongly recommend special driver training because the vans handle differently from cars.

Details are at www.nhtsa.dot.gov/hot/15PassVans/ and www.guideonecenter.com/Church/Articles/vansindex.htm.