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How to Safely Drive a 15-Passenger Van

When operating a 15-passenger van for the first time, it may help to brush up on it with some research. There’s a difference between operating a van of this size and a regular motor vehicle. The safest method for learning how to drive a passenger van is to have an experienced driver with you. If you don’t have that luxury, keep the following safety tips in mind while on the road.

Defensive Driving

As when driving any vehicle, drivers attempting to drive 15-passenger vans should always practice defensive driving, which includes giving other vehicles the right of way, driving the speed limit, staying in the right lane, and avoiding aggressive driving tactics. Before setting out on the road, make sure side view and rearview mirrors are adjusted properly in order to reduce blind spots.

When changing lanes, you will need more space, and you will need to rely more on the side mirrors due to the van’s size. Try to maintain a safe distance around all sides of the vehicle, specifically four seconds (six seconds during extreme weather) behind the vehicle ahead of you. Because abrupt steering is a risk, stay in the right lane to avoid any sudden lane changes if you can.

Speed & Weight Distribution

Passenger vans are less aerodynamic and are more likely to roll over during an accident. While driving, try to avoid carrying too much weight and making any sharp turns at high speeds. A passenger van has a longer body than most automobiles, so it needs more room while turning. Practice turns until you become comfortable and gain a better understanding of the van’s turning radius.

When driving a 15-passenger van, it’s best to drive slightly under the speed limit, around five mph less than what’s posted. This is crucial for areas with poor road conditions and busier areas like the highway where you shouldn’t exceed more than 60 mph. Try to avoid rushing during extreme weather—if unfavorable weather conditions are in the forecast, it’s probably best to postpone your trip until the weather clears.

Braking & Parking

Passenger vans require longer braking times than other automobiles. The more weight they are toting, the longer the stop. The same goes for speed—drivers should gradually come to a stop as they approach their destination. If you need to recover from a skid, take your foot off the accelerator and pump the brakes gently to avoid any collisions.

Due to their size, most passenger vans do not fit in a standard parking spot. Make sure to choose a spot that provides enough room. You should also always be able to pull forward when leaving a parking spot, which may require you to back the vehicle in. Double check your blind spots and use your spotters, which are the smaller mirrors attached to your side view mirrors to help reduce blind spots.

Think you or someone you know is in need of Behind the Wheel Training? Training Wheels is a Linwood driving school specializing in teaching new teen drivers how to stay safe on the road. For more information on our lessons, please click here.

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