A safety advisory has been issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) warning consumers of the high risk of rollovers in fifteen passenger vans. The warning comes after research shows summer months (June-August) are the deadliest time of year for passengers in these vans. Thirty-one percent of fatal rollovers occur during this period of time because of the increase in travel. NHTSA data has shown an increased risk for rollover when the van is fully occupied because the vehicle has a higher center of gravity, which makes it less stable and harder to handle. For example, in 2006, fifty percent of occupant fatalities occurred in vans that were fully occupied.
Safety advocates say the agency’s warnings are inadequate and the agency should require the same safety for vans as it does other vehicles, which they currently do not. Federal regulators and automakers, on the other hand, have repeatedly blamed the rollovers on passenger behavior, claiming the vehicle itself is inherently safe. They claim deaths due to rollovers in fifteen passenger vans has declined since 2001 due to electronic stability controls developed in 2004. The data on how much this equipment actually helps in rollovers, however, is not yet known.
NHTSA has asked the users of fifteen passenger vans to avoid other factors that increase the risk of rollover by wearing their seatbelts, checking tire pressure, and ensuring an experienced driver is operating the vehicle. It is imperative that van owners also change the vehicle’s tires because although they might still have their tread and be properly inflated, they still become less safe over time. Other van advisories have asked van operators to keep the passenger load light and not put anything on the roof.