Article summary.Many churches own 15-passenger vans, and most use them exclusively to transport children and adults on church-approved trips. Few church leaders are aware that these vans are designed to transport cargo, not people, and that they lack the many safety features required of school buses. The safety of these vans was called into question last year in a safety advisory issued by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). This advisory warned that the "rollover" rate of 15-passenger vans increases nearly seven times when they are driven with more than 15 occupants. The rollover rate is three times greater for 15-passenger vans with 10 or more occupants than for vans with less than 10 occupants. The NHTSA recently reissued this safety advisory, and has released a new pamphlet describing the risks of using 15-passenger vans. It also has made specific recommendations. This article will review the legal risks associated with the use of 15-passenger vans by churches, and address ways to manage those risks. It also will address other legal issues associated with the use of church vans.

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Posted: July 1, 2002
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