Rollover prevention tips and safe operating guidelines

Multi-passenger vans do not operate like automobiles

  • Height of vehicle increases rollover potential
  • Length of vehicle increases stopping distance
  • Width of vans is NOT a significant enough factor to improve the safety of the vehicle

Center of gravity and rollover potential

  • The higher the center of gravity the more prone a vehicle is to rollover hazards
  • Center of gravity for vans varies depending on several factors
    • Center of gravity is higher due to shape and size
    • Center of gravity rises with passenger weight or equipment
    • Normal vehicle center of gravity is at bumper height providing stability
  • When a van is filled to capacity the center or gravity can be as high as the steering wheel!
  • Quick maneuvers such as turns, striking curbs, veering off pavement, and over compensating all commonly result in van rollover accidents
  • High center of gravity = compromised stability

Importance of tire pressure

  • Proper tire pressure is the most important part of maintaining tires
  • Under inflation and overloading are major causes of tire failure
  • Purchase an accurate tire pressure gauge
  • Inspect tires regularly, at least once a month for overall condition and irregular wear
  • Observe tire pressure and vehicle load limits
  • You can’t tell if tires are properly inflated by just looking at them

Road run off hazards

  • Rural roads have higher drops off the side leading to more rollovers
  • Fatigued drivers drift off the road
  • Over-correcting for running off road results in rollover
  • Practice attentive and non-distracted driving
  • Maintain appropriate travel speed for the conditions
  • Avoid driving when tired or impaired by drugs or alcohol 

Avoiding rollovers during a panic situation

  • Take your foot off the gas
  • Avoid sudden braking
  • Allow gradual slowing from gravity
  • Do not turn the steering wheel sharply
  • Minor damage suffered from leaving the roadway is okay compared to the potential seriousness of a rollover accident

Turning tips

  • Left turns
    • Begin turning farther forward into the intersection to allow for the longer length of the van
    • Be sure to allow extra room in the intersection so as you turn, the longer van length will not strike other vehicles waiting to enter from the left
  • Right turns
    • Prevent the right rear tire from hitting the curb by approaching the intersection from the left side of the right lane
    • Turn on your turn signal early
    • Check your mirrors frequently 

Backing safely

  • If possible, plan ahead to park where backing will not be necessary
  • When backing, if possible, back towards to driver’s side
  • If in a difficult backing situation, try to use a spotter
  • Use mirrors frequently
  • Perform the backing maneuver slowly

Passenger safety

  • Always park on level surface when loading and unloading passengers
  • Provide assistance if special needs exist
  • When unloading children, perform a full inspection of the van to make sure no passengers remain when exiting
  • Always verify numbers of children

Parking considerations

  • Try to park in a manner that allows you to leave by pulling forward rather than backing out
  • It is better to back into a parking space after you arrive at a destination rather than backing out when you are leaving
  • Set the parking brake as a matter of habit
  • Always place the gear in the park position
  • Turn off electrical accessories
  • Close windows
  • Remove the keys and lock the doors

Mirror use

  • Adjust mirrors before starting vehicle
  • Have a passenger assist if necessary
  • Side mirrors help reduce blind spots but do not completely eliminate them in some cases
  • Scan rear-view mirror and side mirrors every 5 to 10 seconds while driving
  • Proper mirror usage reduces panic responses which lead to rollover accidents

General safe driving tips

  • Nothing is more important than safe arrival at your destination
  • Plan ahead to avoid late departures which lead to unsafe driving habits
  • Always wear your seat belt and make sure passengers are wearing seatbelts before you leave
  • Practice courteous driving and yield to other traffic when safe to do so

Poor weather conditions

  • Consider postponing trip if possible
  • Reduce speed in rain, fog, snow, or ice conditions
  • Increase your viewing distance ahead to include several vehicles,  not just the one immediately in front of you
  • Windy conditions can create increased rollover potential for 15 passenger vans – be aware of wind from weather and sudden gusts from passing trucks

Avoid driving impaired

  • Know when it is not safe for you to be driving
  • Fatigue and lack of sleep cause inattention to driving, delayed response to circumstances, and falling asleep at the wheel
  • Alcohol or drug use causes inattention to driving, faulty decision making, and delayed responses

Common driver distractions to control or avoid

  • Cell phone use
    • Have passengers make calls if possible
    • Safely stop vehicle before calling out
    • Avoid answering incoming calls while driving
  • Maps and directions
    • Study directions prior to departure
    • Stop in a safe place if lost or you need to refresh directions
    • Utilize passengers to help if possible
  • Food
    • Should be consumed when stopped, before leaving, or after arriving
  • Unfamiliar equipment
    • Radio should be pre-set before leaving
    • Learn lights, blinkers, emergency flashers, emergency brake, and air/heat controls before leaving

Conclusion

  • Driver attention to safety is the most important factor in avoiding accidents
  • NHTSA strongly encourages continued training for drivers of 15 passenger vans to reduce rollover accidents
  • More passengers increases the risk of rollover accidents
  • If you feel uncomfortable with driving 15 passenger vans, enroll in a professional training course 

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The information provided in this article is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as all encompassing, or suitable for all situations, conditions, and environments. Please contact us or your attorney if you have any questions.

For safety or risk management questions or suggestions, please contact Markel.

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