The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) is a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). This government agency publishes safety information for 15-passenger vans. The agency also establishes guidelines and regulations addressing safety issues with these larger passenger vehicles.


Under the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act (SAFETEA-LU), most schools and school systems can no longer purchase 15-passenger vans or use these vehicles to transport children to and from school. This prohibition followed a recommendation to Congress in 2002 based on the National Transportation Safety Board's review of the NHTSA’s NCAP rollover rating system. The recommendation does apply if a 15-passenger van complies with motor vehicle standards for school buses or if it is used for multifunction school activities such as transporting students on field trips.

Driver Controls

States are allowed to create their own licensing requirements for drivers who operate 15-passenger vans in order to ensure the safety of passengers. Some states such as California require operators to possess a class B commercial driver's license with a passenger vehicle endorsement. In addition, California requires that these drivers have a medical statement on file and complete a road test. These controls are intended to help ensure the safety of passengers and other vehicles on the road.

Best Practices

Best practices for 15-passenger van safety vary by state. Some states have adopted best practices that include phasing out 15-passenger vans for transporting school-aged children and mandatory use of seat belts. Other practices include using accident-reporting kits for drivers and creating “bad weather policies” for operators of 15-passenger vans.