The National Transportation Safety Board, concerned about the safety of 15-passenger vans, is urging automakers to add features to prevent their rollover and is asking the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to expand its rollover ratings to include those vehicles.
Churches, sports teams, and other groups frequently use 15-passenger vans.
The Ohio Department of Education, however, forbids their use for school transportation. The state, citing concerns that the large vans are more likely to roll over when fully loaded, last year issued a directive forbidding their use in transporting school children. Day care facilities are exempt from that prohibition.
KinderCare Learning Centers, a national outfit with five facilities in Toledo, said it has begun phasing out its 15-passenger vans in favor of small buses to transport children between schools and its day-care facilities.
Jill Eiland, KinderCare's media representative, said the vans are being replaced when the leases expire or as part of its normal vehicle replacement schedule. KinderCare, of Portland, Ore., has only 25 of the 15-passenger buses left in Ohio out of a fleet of 141 vehicles, she said.
Some day-care facilities in northwest Ohio said they plan to keep their 15-passenger vans, which they consider economical and safe modes of transportation.
Marcia Fifer, director of Stay and Play Day Care and Preschool, 3120 South Byrne Rd., said her day care has operated Dodge Ram 15-passenger vans for about 12 years without incident. She applauds a move that would require inspections of vehicles that day-care operators use. “That does not bother me,” she said. “We want them inspected.”
Stay and Play uses its three 15-passenger vans primarily to transport 30 to 40 children daily to and from schools in Maumee and South Toledo and on short day trips during in the summer, Ms. Fifer said.
The Children's Corner in Findlay also relies on a 15-passenger van, but owner Virginia Kleiner says the vehicle would not be necessary if the public school system would provide bus service, citing the school district's policy of not transporting students who live less than a mile from school.
The National Transportation Safety Board urged General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co to test the use of electronic stability control systems to help drivers maintain better control of large vans. About 500,000 15-passenger vans are in use on U.S. highways. The NHTSA said 424 people have died in passenger van accidents in the United States since 1990.