Driver Training

One of the most important measures in preventing 15 passenger rollovers and accidents is to put all drivers through training. Understanding how 15 passenger vans differ from regular vehicles is an important skill all drivers must possess. The best way to train individuals how to safely operate 15 passenger vans is to provide actual behind the wheel training from an experienced driver. Topics that should be addressed during 15 passenger van driver training should include most, if not all, of the following topics:

  • Defensive driving skills:  Driving defensively means
    • Giving other vehicles the right of way
    • Not frequently passing other vehicles
    • Driving below the speed limit
    • Staying primarily in the right lane
    • Avoiding all aggressive driving maneuvers.
  • Speed management: Posted speed limits are safe for cars but not for 15 passenger vans. Always reduce your speed below the posted speed limit for all posted turns and poor road conditions. Never exceed 60 MPH.
  • Extreme driving conditions: This includes ice/snow/rain/wind. Always check the weather forecast prior to any trip. If conditions are unsafe be prepared to cancel the trip. If conditions are unfavorable leave early to avoid rushing.
  • Center of gravity & weight distribution:  15 passenger vans have an extremely high center of gravity due to their design and shape. This factor makes them susceptible to deadly roll-overs. The more 15 passenger vans are loaded, the higher the center of gravity becomes. Because of this high center of gravity it is important to disperse the load evenly and to avoid making any quick or sharp turns at high speeds.
  • Space management: Always maintain a safe cushion of space around the van at all times. Drive in the right lane whenever possible. In good weather conditions keep 4 seconds behind other traffic and 6 seconds when the conditions are bad. This means it should take that many seconds before the rear of your van reaches a point passed by another car.
  • Turning radius: Due to its length, a 15 passenger van has a much wider turning radius than an average vehicle. As a result, it takes much more room to turn a corner. It is recommended that all drivers practice turns so they can become more familiar with the dynamics of turning 15 passenger vans.
  • Lane changes: Changing lanes requires significantly more space and a greater reliance on the side mirrors due to the increased length and width of 15 passenger vans. Also, the vehicle does not respond safely to abrupt steering maneuvers.
  • Parking: Since 15 passenger vans are much longer than average vehicles they will not fit in standard parking spaces. Also, due to the difficulty associated with backing 15 passenger vans, parking spaces should enable the driver to pull forward when leaving the spot. When parking on a hill the driver should turn the wheels so the van will roll against the cub. The parking break should always be set, the transmission gear should be in park, all accessories should be off, and all the windows should be closed.
  • Backing: Large blind spots can make backing up very difficult in 15 passenger vans. These blind spots are due to both size and design. Drivers should learn the importance of using a spotter, backing techniques, and handling the vehicle while backing. Also, drivers should understand the importance of proper vehicle positioning prior to backing and proper mirror adjustments.
  • Loading and unloading passengers: Passengers should be seated closer to the front of the van and evenly distributed from side to side. Drivers should exercise good judgment on where to safely load and unload passengers. Chose locations where passengers do not have to cross traffic. Using a spotter when loading ad unloading is recommended to keep passengers safe.
  • Emergency maneuvers: One of the biggest contributors to 15 passenger van roll-overs is over steering during emergency situations. Due to inattention or fatigue, drivers who veer off the road or into another lane will quickly attempt to correct their driving back onto the road resulting in a roll-over. Drivers should be instructed in this situation to remain calm, reduce their speed, and gently ease the van back into position.
  • Animal hazards: Animals pose a greater hazard to 15 passenger vans than other vehicles. Swerving or abruptly breaking can cause the van to lose control and can result in a dangerous rollover. Use high beams when possible to spot animals. Be alert; when there is one animal there is often more.
  • Braking: 15 passenger vans require significantly longer braking times than normal cars. The more weight, the longer it takes to stop. The higher the speed, the longer it takes to stop. Abrupt or sudden breaking can cause the vehicle to lose control. Always allow ample time before stopping or slowing a 15 passenger van.
  • Skid control & recovery: If the driver of a 15 passenger van finds themselves in a skid due to water or ice it is important that they are trained to not break or turn the steering wheel, but instead to ease off the accelerator and to gently pump the breaks if they need to stop quicker.
  • Pre-trip checks: Before embarking on a trip in a 15 passenger van it is important to make sure the vehicle is in the best possible condition to reduce the risks of some sort of mechanical issue. For more information regarding proper 15 passenger van inspections please refer to the Daily Vehicle Inspections for 15 Passenger Vans section.
  • Passenger safety/protection: Flares, fire extinguishers, warning signs, cell phones, and roadside assistance contacts are some of the most important safety materials all drivers should be instructed to bring with them on all trips.
  • Driver distractions: No matter what type of vehicle is being driven it is important for all drivers to be aware of distractions and do their part to avoid them.  For more information regarding the types of dangers associated with driver distractions see the Driver Distractions section.
  • Roadside maintenance: If a mechanical issue occurs resulting in the vehicle being forced to the side of the road, it is important to keep passengers calm and safe until the situation can be corrected or help arrives. To do this slowly ease the van to the side of the road, turn on the hazards, turn off the engine, and unload the passengers from the van on the side away from traffic and move them to a safe distance until the van is repaired or another vehicle arrives.
  • Night operations: If possible avoid driving 15 passenger vans at night. If nighttime driving is unavoidable it is important to train drivers how to drive safely at night. High beams should be used when possible. Speeds should be reduced. It is also important to make sure the driver is rested and not suffering from driver fatigue.
  • Blind spots: The biggest blind spot for 15 passenger vans is directly behind the vehicle. Mirrors should be adjusted so that you can barely see the edge of the van. Mirrors should be scanned every 3-5 seconds. When changing lanes, always check for blind spots by leaning forward to change the angle of sight and then turning your head.
  • Lights on for safety: It is recommended that 15 passenger vans keep their lights on at all times to increase their visibility and make them more visible to other drivers.

Seat Belt Policy

Drivers should be trained to enforce a rule that seatbelts must be worn by all occupants at all times. Seatbelts should be inspected regularly. If any seatbelts are damaged, missing, or broken they should be replaced immediately. In a 15 passenger van single vehicle crash an unrestrained occupant is 3 times more likely to be killed than a restrained occupant.

Occupancy

Never exceed 15 passengers at any time. If the van has less than 15 passengers, individuals should be placed in seats in front of the rear axle.

Backing Up & Use of a Spotter

15 passenger vans are longer and wider than most commonly driven vehicles and as a result they have much larger blind spots. If possible, it is best to always make use of a spotter when backing to aid in keeping the driver aware of the vehicle’s surroundings.

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