In July 2011, the AFS-USA National Council decided to no longer allow the use of 15-passenger vans by AFS volunteers or staff for AFS events or activities. This serious concern was brought to the attention of AFS staff by volunteers in the Columbia Pacific Team. The primary reason for the implementation of this new policy is to continue to ensure the safety and welfare of our participants – one of AFS-USA’s core values.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) calculates that 15-passenger vans overturn more than half the time they are involved in single-vehicle crashes, compared to 33 percent of the time for other vehicles. Approximately 81 percent of all fatalities in 15-passenger van crashes occur in just such single vehicle rollovers.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been involved in some of the key research concerning these vans. Their research indicates that:
- Risk of rollovers increases significantly when 10 or more passengers ride in a 15–passenger van.
- Roofs are inadequately reinforced. Even when passengers are wearing seat belts, they will not satisfactorily prevent massive crushing that result in death, traumatic brain injuries or severed spinal cords.
- Vans should be operated only by well-trained drivers who understand the handling mechanisms of these vehicles, especially when fully loaded.
- Any load on the roof will be above the center of gravity and increase the possibility of a rollover in an emergency maneuver.
- Speed plays a role in many accidents. Approximately 25% of all accidents are the result of excessive speed. In 15-passenger vans, this is even more significant as speeds that may be acceptable in a smaller passenger car can be highly dangerous in these vans.
More than half of U.S. states already have laws or regulations that prohibit the use of vans for transporting public school students to and from school and school-related activities. Federal law prohibits the sale of these vans to local schools and school districts if the vans are to be used for transporting high school aged and younger students. Many youth serving organizations similarly prohibit the use of these vans.