Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 6: Play Areas/Playgrounds and Transportation

6.5 Transportation

6.5.3 Vehicles Passenger Vans

Child care facilities that provide transportation to children, parents/guardians, staff, and others should avoid the use of fifteen-passenger vans whenever possible. Other vehicles, such as vehicles meeting the definition of a “school bus,” should be used to fulfill transportation of child passengers in particular. Conventional twelve- to fifteen-passenger vans cannot be certified as school buses by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) standards (2,4), and thus cannot be sold or leased, as new vehicles, to carry students on a regular basis. Caregivers/teachers should be knowledgeable about the laws of the state(s) in which their vehicles, including passenger vans, will be registered and used.
Fifteen-passenger vans are more likely to be involved in a single-vehicle rollover crash than any other type of vehicle (1). Fifteen-passenger vans typically have seating positions for a driver and fourteen passengers. The risk of a rollover crash is greatly increased when ten or more people ride in a fifteen-passenger van (1). This increased risk occurs because the passenger weight raises the vehicle’s center of gravity and causes it to shift rearward. As a result, the van has less resistance to rollover and handles differently from other commonly driven passenger vehicles, making it more difficult to control in an emergency situation (3). Occupant restraint use is especially critical because large numbers of people die in rollover crashes when they are partially or completely thrown from the vehicle. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that people who wear their seat belts are about 75% less likely to be killed in a rollover crash than people who do not.

The NHTSA has the authority to regulate the first sale or lease of a new vehicle by a dealer. The applicable statute requires any person selling or leasing a new vehicle to sell or lease a vehicle that meets all applicable standards (6). Under NHTSA’s regulations, a “bus” is any vehicle, including a van, which has a seating capacity of eleven persons or more. The statute defines a “school bus” as any bus which is likely to be “used significantly” to transport “pre-primary, primary, and secondary” students to or from school or related events (5). A twelve- to fifteen-passenger van that is likely to be used significantly to transport students is a “school bus” by this definition, but cannot be certified as such.

State law may require school bus equipment not specified in NHTSA regulations. Each state regulates how school buses are to be used and which agencies are responsible for developing and enforcing school bus regulations. In some states, requirements for transporting public school children differ from requirements for transporting children attending private schools and non-school organizations (e.g., Head Start programs, child care agencies, etc.)

For further information about state school bus regulations, contact the applicable State Director of Pupil Transportation. A list of State Directors can be obtained at http://www or by calling 1-800-585-0340begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 1-800-585-0340 end_of_the_skype_highlighting.

Organizations that use fifteen-passenger vans to transport children, students, seniors, sports groups, or others, need to be informed about how to reduce rollover risks, avoid potential dangers, and better protect occupants in the event of a rollover crash. Drivers should be alert to these vehicles’ high center of gravity – particularly when fully loaded – and their increased chance of rollover. The following are the NHTSA’s official recommendations (1):

  1. Caregivers/teachers should keep passenger load light. NHTSA research has shown that fifteen-passenger vans have a rollover risk that increases dramatically as the number of occupants increases from fewer than five to more than ten. In fact, fifteen-passenger vans (with ten or more occupants) had a rollover rate in single vehicle crashes that is nearly three times the rate of those that were lightly loaded.
  2. The van’s tire pressure should be checked frequently — at least once a week. A just-released NHTSA study found that 74% of all fifteen-passenger vans had improperly inflated tires. By contrast, 39% of passenger cars had improperly inflated tires. Improperly inflated tires can change handling characteristics, increasing the prospect of a rollover crash in fifteen-passenger vans.
  3. Require all occupants to use their seat belts or the appropriate child restraint. Nearly 80% of those who have died nationwide in fifteen-passenger vans were not buckled up. Wearing seat belts dramatically increases the chances of survival during a rollover crash.
  4. If at all possible, seat passengers and place cargo forward of the rear axle — and avoid placing any loads on the roof. By following these guidelines, you’ll lower the vehicle’s center of gravity and lower the chance of a rollover crash.
  5. Be mindful of speed and road conditions. The analysis of fifteen-passenger van crashes also shows that the risk of rollover increases significantly at speeds over fifty miles per hour and on curved roads (1).
  6. Only qualified drivers should be behind the wheel. Special training and experience are required to properly operate a fifteen-passenger van. Drivers should only operate these vehicles when well rested and fully alert.

For more information on fifteen-passenger vans, see and http://www.nhtsa

Center, Early Head Start, Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home
RELATED STANDARDS Transportation Policy for Centers and Large Family Homes Transportation Policy for Small Family Child Care Homes
  1. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Reducing the risk of rollover crashes in 15-passenger vans. and Safety/Vans/documents/NHTSA_FLYER.pdf.
  2. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. School Buses.
  3. Aird, L. 2007. Moving kids safely in child care: A refresher course. Exchange (Jan/Feb): 25-28.
  4. American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention, and Council on School Health. 2007. Policy statement: School transportation safety. Pediatrics 120:213-20.
  5. Transportation. 1994. 49 U.S.C. §30125.
  6. Transportation. 1994. 49 U.S.C. §30112.