As a van driver, you have a responsibility to your passengers, to Mount Holyoke College and to the general public with whom you share the highway. Driving a van may not be a daily experience for you, so be especially careful. This vehicle is larger and heavier than your personal vehicle and handles differently. Driving a van requires extra caution at all times.
Compensating for Van Characteristics
Although a van handles differently from a sedan, you can compensate for its characteristics and operate it smoothly and safely.
When turning a corner, you must make wider swing with a van than you would with a car. Consequently, on a right turn it is necessary to watch the right outside mirrors for small vehicles, motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians. Use turn signals well in advance. Make turns more slowly than you would with a car. If you turn too quickly, the van will lean and make your passengers uncomfortable. Whenever possible, don’t make a “U turn.” Due to the van’s wider turning radius, you may not be able to complete the “U turn” with one motion.
A loaded van is more difficult to stop than a sedan traveling at the same speed. Therefore, you should use a three-second following rule for a van, as opposed to a two-second following rule for a sedan. The three-second rule works as follows: count 1,001 – 1,002 – 1,003 after the rear of the vehicle you are following passes a fixed object. If the front of your vehicle passes the same object before you count to 1,003, you are following too closely. Slow down. Increase to four-second following in poor weather conditions or when fully loaded.
Height of Van
The height of the van has advantages and disadvantages for the driver. On the plus side, it gives you a better view of the road ahead. On the negative side, some garages are not high enough to accommodate the van. You also have to watch for overhead obstructions such as trees and limbs. The van can block the view of passenger cars following you. Drivers may attempt to pass you at an unsafe time or place and thus threaten to involve you in an accident. Watch both outside mirrors for these maneuvers.
The van has blind spots on each side. Adjust your mirrors to reduce these as much as possible. The greatest blind spot is to the rear when backing up. Your best defense it to back up only when necessary. Avoid backing into traffic. If you must back up, get out and check the area behind you before doing so. Turn on your four-way flashers and back slowly. Have your passengers assist you, but make sure they understand what you expect from them. To avoid striking a pedestrian, stop back from a crosswalk. Watch out for your own passengers walking across the front of the van as they board or leave. When in a line of stop-and-go traffic, never get so close to the vehicle in front that you lose sight of its stoplight and directional signals.
Parking & Loading/Unloading
Watch for normal hazards, such as low branches and wires, fences, walls and hydrants and choose a spot that will be easy to pull in and out of. It is your responsibility to be aware of potential hazards. It is also essential that you lock the van when it is left unattended.