View Full Version : Necessity for Booster Seats in 15 Passenger Van

10-13-2002, 08:45 PM
I would like to ask you for a referral to get very important info. My
husband feels that it is not absolutely necessary to have children in booster
> seats because we drive a 15 passenger van. The reasoning is that since buses don't require seat belts, than children riding in a big van don't either our 3 & 4 year old ride with a regular seat belt. Could you please email me something technical I could give him regarding his theory? Thank you so much.

10-14-2002, 11:19 AM
I can't help with the technical info, but can say that if my children were in a 15 passenger van, I would be MORE likely, or should I say, ESPECIALLY interested in having my children secured in safety seats. The reason for me to feel this way would be based on recent reports on our local news (we live in Missouri) about the dangers of 15 passenger vans. According to those reports, 15 passenger vans are at increased risk of rollover accidents due to their design. Many people have been injured or killed due to this design flaw. You can get more information about this fact from the National Highway Traffic & Safety Administration (NHTSA) at this website:


I would also say that it is widely believed that the reason school buses have no seat belts speaks more to the commercial bus owners and their ability to profit, than it does to the inherent safety of buses without seatbelts. While there has been corporate/bus owner sponsored studies which suggest that children are sufficiently "compartmentalized" by bus seat design as to reduce likelihood of injury, many other studies show that seat belts in school buses would SIGNIFICANTLY reduce injury & death associated with school bus accidents. There is a good article on this topic here:


The American Academy of Pediatrics, the AMA and the National PTA all support seat belts in school buses, and anyone who has ever seen one of the demonstrations of a bus overturning with the child size dummies flying through the air and bouncing off of the bus seats would quickly come to the same conclusion.

I am sure that Toby or another CPS Tech could give you the specifics of the importance of child safety seats for children & why the ages and restraint specifics are recommended. However, beyond that, I would suggest that your husband's logic is based on an erroneous assumption that the vehicle your children are riding in is especially safe. Not only is that not true, the NHTSA seems to think it can be particularly unsafe. If I were you I would have my kids in carseats by tomorrow.

Good Luck!

Theresa (hooahmama)

10-14-2002, 11:27 AM
This is a complicated issue, involving the safety of 15 passenger vans alone, why school buses are different than 15 passenger vans, and why children need booster seats in the first place.

I guess I'll start with the last first.

Seat belts in cars and vans are not made for children. They are made for adults. As such, they don't fit children correctly, and tend not to give them full protection. Also, children will also use the belts incorrectly because they are so uncomfortable.

Booster seats are a wonderful and simple invention to address this issue. Booster seats position the child such that the lap belt sits low on the child's hips, not higher on top of the internal organs. The hips stop the belt in a crash. The internal organs don't, and the internal organs can get crushed, and the spine broken, mostly when a child is improperly using a lap only belt. This is called "lap belt syndrome" and is one reason that I don't like to see any passenger using just a lap belt. In addition, the booster seat properly positions the shoulder belt, so that it sits between the neck and the shoulder. This is a strong place for the belt to rest, providing good upper body protection for the child. Without the booster, many children put the belt behind the back (go back to lap belt syndrome) or have it resting on the neck or face.

Eventually, children fit adult belts like an adult, usually at about age 8-9 and around 80 pounds. Check out the 5 Step Booster test at www.carseat.org to test your children and see if they are ready to fit the belts without a booster. Before then, children should ride first rear facing as long as possible, then forward facing in a harnessed seat as long as possible, and then in a booster seat.

So now back to the van. Your dh says, "but kids on school buses don't use belts or boosters, and they are considered safe. Isn't our van the same?"

The answer is no. School buses are quite different from vans. First, they are made on a dump truck chassis. They are huge and heavy and strong. They are brightly colored and well marked. They tend to travel on city streets at lower speeds. The children sit higher, so a crash with a passenger vehicle may impact their feet, not heads. The drivers are specially trained, and have special mirrors and safety protocols. The children are protected by "compartmentilization". This does a great job for older children in non-rollover crashes. Fortunately, this means that the bus is pretty much only vulnerable to semis and trains.

So your 15-passenger van does not work like a bus. It is also not a car, which you know. It handles differently and has a different chassis. It is taller and wider. Does this make it safer? Well, actually, there are a number of safety concerns about 15-passenger vans. Basically, they were made to haul cargo, and the seating area was never structurally designed for people. I did a quick search on safety and 15-passenger vans and found the following articles:





I do not know a lot about this issue. I do know that if I owned one of these vans, I'd want to do the research and know. I think there are ways to mitigate some of the risks.

But in any case, I'd STRONGLY recommend keeping your children in the best possible child passenger safety systems you can find. And for 4 year olds, that usually means booster seat, until at least age 8. Also be sure that none of these children are using the lap only belts. These can be used by younger children in harnessed seats. If you need to put older (4+) kids in lap only belts, consider some of the special "seats" like the Britax Laptop or Marathon or Super Elite.

I hope this gets you started on the research. NHTSA (www.nhtsa.gov) is a good place to check. If your dh wants technical data, you should be able to find enough. In the meantime, use those boosters!