Sunday, March 15, 2015

Mothers Say Changes to Motor Vehicle Safety Act A Lasting Legacy

Isabelle Hains and Stella Gurr
Two mothers, who fought for safe student transportation, after their sons were killed in 15-passenger vans, are calling an amendment to Canada’s Motor Vehicle Act a lasting legacy to their Boys’ memory.

Isabelle Hains of Bathurst, New Brunswick and Stella Gurr of Nanaimo, British Columbia announced today that the federal Motor Vehicle Safety Act has been amended to include the MULTIFUNCTION SCHOOL ACTIVITY BUS.

The “MULTIFUNCTION SCHOOL ACTIVITY BUS" (MFSAB) is now officially a new and distinct definition under Canada’s Motor Vehicle Safety Act effective February 11, 2015. 

"MULTIFUNCTION SCHOOL ACTIVITY BUS" means a school bus that is designed to pick up and drop off students under circumstances in which there is no need to control traffic.

These vehicles are built to the same high safety standards as the familiar yellow school buses but do not require the signal stop arm and flashing lights safety features (Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standard #108 and #131).  MFSAB’s are meant for commuting passengers from point to point, rather than the repeated and frequent road-side pick up and drop off necessary to transport students to and from school.

Amendment to the Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations finally defines a Multifunction School Activity Bus In Canada

Canada Gazette Part II,
Vol. 149, No. 3 — February 11, 2015
SOR/2015-23 January 30, 2015

Regulations Amending the Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations (Interpretation and Standards 108 and 131)

On September 30, 2010, the Van Angel mothers, Isabelle Hains and Stella Gurr, travelled to Halifax, NS, to meet with the then Minister of Transport, Chuck Strahl to request that Transport Canada recognize the multifunction school activity bus (MFSAB) as a sub-category of a ‘school bus’ under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act.

Isabelle and Stella lost their sons, Daniel and Michael, in two separate fatal 15-passenger van incidents in 2008.

17 year-old Daniel was one of the seven teen-aged basketball players with the Bathurst High School Phantoms who were killed in a collision between their 15-passenger van and a transport truck in the early morning hours of January 12, 2008.

Michael (age 26) was killed in a single vehicle 15- passenger van roll over on September 25, 2008 outside Brandon, Manitoba while on a cross Canada tour with the band, The Hotel Lobbyists.

The Van Angel mothers’ formal presentation in Halifax in 2010 between the Transport Minister and his provincial/territorial counterparts was a beginning of a long 4 ½ regulatory journey. Since 2008 the Van Angels have actively advocated the banning of the 15-passenger vans for school and small group use. The presentation included strong support from two CUPE school bus drivers (NB and BC), two original members of the CSA D270 working committee as well as New Brunswick safety advocate, Melynda Jarratt.

The Canadian Standards Association Technical Committee on school buses had already developed and introduced the CSA D270 Multifunction Activity Bus (MFAB) standard in 2008. The CSA had already recognized the need for a single federal definition for a vehicle with a school bus body built (CSA D270) but without the signal stop arm and flashing lights. The CSA fully supported the mother’s move to establish a new definition in the Motor Vehicle Safety Act. School bus manufacturers also supported the move towards a new definition, as it would facilitate cross border trade. The MFSAB definition was approved in the US in 2003, and the logical step is to harmonize the regulation with the States.  

The Bathurst tragedy in 2008 shocked the nation and led to calls for changes in the way students were transported for co-and extra- curricular activities, which led to the banning of 15 passenger vans for school use in New Brunswick. To date the 15-passenger vans are banned for all school use in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, Quebec and many school districts across Canada.  It is a provincial/territorial responsibility to decide which vehicles are used for school transportation.

According to the Van Angel mothers, the introduction of this new definition of the MFSAB provides school boards, commercial bus operators, and the general public with an alternate choice of vehicle that would offer a similar safety standard as a yellow school bus.  For decades, Transport Canada and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration both agree that the safest mode of transport for students is a yellow school bus.

Both Isabelle and Stella have always believed that choosing a vehicle that is built to provide the best chance of survival is the key to saving lives and that it is the public's right to demand the safest transportation available.

The mothers want a Van Angels law implemented by all the Provinces and Territories that only allow a yellow school bus or a  Multifunction School Activity Buses for students participating in co-curricular and extra-curricular activities.

The Van Angels have spent the last 7 years honouring their Sons' lives through their advocacy work.  

In Loving Memory and Never Forgotten: Javier Acevedo (17) Codey Branch (17) Nathan Cleland (17) Justin Cormier (17) Daniel Hains (17) Nikki Kelly (15) Nickolas Quinn (16) Michael Gurr (26)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Choices: Kevin McCarthy says groups need choices for safe transportation

Kevin McCarthy
in a photo taken in 2009.
Source: The Western Star
by Stella Gurr

Making an informed decision about the safest mode of transportation for students and other small groups such as sports teams, daycares, seniors, musicians, farm and forestry workers etc. can mean the difference between life and death on our Canadian roads and highways.

Kevin McCarthy, has no doubts about his feelings towards making a conscious effort to promote, recommend and choose the safest vehicles to transport his loved ones and the sports teams that he is actively involved with in Newfoundland.

Kevin's traumatic experience as a survivor of a fatal single vehicle 15-passenger rollover over 35 years ago, always resurfaces when there is another motor vehicle accident involving young people and sports teams.

Click here to read article in the Western Star about Kevin's experience Flashbacks of 1979 come to mind for Kevin McCarthy every time he hears of a bus crash 

On August 17, 1979, Kevin was young  player with the Corner Brook, Newfoundland U-14 soccer team travelling to the provincial championships in Conception Bay.

Kevin remembers that it was raining and the roads were slick and wet causing the Dodge 15-passenger team van to hydroplane a few times. Approximately 11 kilometres outside of Clarenville, the  van once again began to hydroplane but this time, unable to stabilize and regain lane position, it fishtailed, tipped and rolled several times. The van ended up down an embankment on the opposite side of the road.

Kevin's friend and teammate, Doug Quigley died and many of the boys were seriously injured.

Kevin has always played sports and been actively involved in the local and provincial sports community. Currently, he is the general manager of the Western Kings Major Midget Hockey team in Corner Brook, Newfoundland and vice-president (former president) of Baseball Newfoundland and Labrador.

He says that baseball team transportation in his province is generally provided by parent's vehicles and drivers and travel arrangements are left to the discretion of each individual association. His home town team, the Corner Brook Barons baseball league uses their own school bus, called the Blue Baron II for transporting players. He also points out that the local midget hockey team, the Western Kings, always uses the large coach buses for travel.

Transport Canada and the provinces reviewed the regulation and use of 15-passenger vans, after the horrific Bathurst tragedy that killed seven senior high school basketball players and a coach's wife in a collision between the school's 15-passenger van and a semi-tractor trailer.

Since banning any vehicle is mandated under the provinces and territories,it was left to each individual jurisdiction to make that decision and thus fell short of implementing a nation-wide ban in all Canadian schools.

Currently, 15-passenger vans are banned from use for all school related activities in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island and Quebec. A patchwork of regulations banning 15-passenger vans for school use exists in many school districts across Canada.

Many Canadians, including accident survivor Kevin McCarthy, agree with our Van Angels group that we need to provide the safest vehicle available to transport students and other small groups.

Canadians need to be well informed about the types of vehicles that are available for this purpose. Since both Transport Canada and the National Transportation Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) agree that school buses are the safest mode of transportation for students, then there should be no doubt that vehicles with a school bus body build are the logical choice.

Both the familiar yellow school bus and the Multifunction School Activity Bus (MFSAB) are built to higher mandatory Canadian and US (CMVSS and FMVSS) Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Global News: Grimshaw, Alberta, School Bus Driver Dies

Our thoughts are with the family of the bus driver and all the children involved in this tragedy. Our Van Angels group believe that this school bus collision would of been more severe if the children were travelling in a 15 passenger van.  The Bathurst tragedy on January 12, 2008, which killed seven students and the coach's wife is a glaring reminder that the public must be constantly vigilant of the type of vehicles use to transport our loves ones.  

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Van Angels: School Buses Safest Mode of Transportation For Students

The yellow school bus on the left was hit by a truck near Calgary on October 25, 2013. All the children survived. The 15 passenger van on the right was hit by a truck on January 12, 2008. Eight passengers, including 7 members of the  Bathurst High School Phantoms basketball team and the coach's wife were killed. When it comes to survivability, children are more likely to survive a collision in a yellow school bus than in a 15 passenger van. Which vehicle would you like your children to be in?

Both Transport Canada and the provincial/territorial jurisdictions agree that the safest mode of transport for students is the yellow school bus because it is built to higher safety standards.

Our Van Angels group agrees.

To date, many students across Canada are still being transported in 15-passenger vans for extra-curricular sports and activities. Does it make sense that your child is more valuable during school hours than after school? Which vehicle do you want your precious child to be riding in when and if an accident happens?

Recent school bus incidents here in Canada show that the higher safety standards of these vehicles played a major role in protecting students and saving lives.

CBC School Bus Crash Near Vernon, British Columbia: No serious injuries reported after bus ends up onto its side with 19 students onboard

No Kids Injured After School Bus Rolls Near Biggar, Saskatchewan

No Injuries After Drunk Driver Hit And Run On School Bus in North Battleford, Saskatchewan

Children Survive Truck Collision with School Bus near Calgary, Alberta

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Hockey News: Book on tragic high school crash raises awareness, reminder of vigilance for parents of student-athletes

Driven by
Richard Foot
By:Jason Kay on January 15, 2014

Hockey parents get a bad rap for boorish behavior, but there’s no questioning their dedication. They’ll drive thousands of clicks every winter to transport their kids to games and tournaments in faraway communities.

Click here to read original article on Hockey News website.

Some of the schlepping is done through brutal wintry conditions. At times, we make questionable decisions, proceeding when we should probably postpone, or getting behind the wheel when we’re tired. Maybe we haven’t checked the air pressure in our tires recently, which can be critical for safety on ice and snow.

These are choices we’ve made and we’re accountable for any dire consequences.

But what happens when we entrust our children’s well being during extracurricular transportation to the school system? How assured should we feel that appropriate standards are in place and they’re being regulated and monitored?

That’s one of the areas of examination in Richard Foot’s book Driven, which tells the tales of three mothers and their quest for answers and change after their sons were among seven high school basketball players killed, along with the coach’s wife, in a collision in 2008.

They were returning home on a stormy, icy night to Bathurst, N.B., from Moncton, a 400-kilometer round trip, when their van, driven by the team’s coach, spun out of control and directly into the path of an oncoming transport truck. The driver of the rig couldn’t stop in time and one of the worst road tragedies in Canadian history in terms of lives lost ensued.

Due in large part to unrelenting lobbying and campaigning of Isabelle Hains and Ana Acevedo, then later Marcella Kelly, a coroner’s inquest was held, which made several safety recommendations that were adopted. New Brunswick also subsequently banned the use of 15-passenger vans for student transportation, joining Quebec, Nova Scotia and dozens of U.S. states to enact the measure. Nova Scotia was the first Canadian province to take the step, in 1994, about a decade after three young hockey players perished in a crash.

Fifteen-passenger vans have been the subject of controversy, cited for a high rollover rate in some research. Other reports, including one study conducted by Transport Canada in 2013, concluded the 15-passenger vans are as safe as any other highway vehicle.

Regardless, the New Brunswick tragedy and aftermath should raise a flag for parents to understand how their children are being shuttled to high school hockey games and other activities and whether they’re confident appropriate safety standards are being enforced. Some districts use school buses with professionally-trained drivers; for others, it’s a teacher or coach behind the wheel of a non-regulated vehicle.

In Canada, it remains an ad hoc system, with no national policy.

The hockey world has been touched by fatal auto accidents numerous times over the years. Tim Horton, Pelle Lindbergh, Dan Snyder, Luc Bourdon, Don Ashby, Steve Chiasson and Valeri Kharlamov are among the high profile players who perished in wrecks. A bus accident in 1986 killed four members of the Swift Current Broncos. Chicago captain Ed Litzenberger was in a vehicle that crashed and claimed his wife in 1959. Tom Cochrane famously relates the story of a deadly collision involving a young hockey player in his song “Big League.” And that’s just some of victims of stature of whom we’re aware.

Some of the accidents were senseless and caused by negligence. For others, it’s less clear what could have been done to prevent tragedy. A good starting point for all of us, as it’s underlined in Driven, is awareness and vigilance.

Click here to read original article on Hockey News website. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

CBC: New Brunswick prisoner transport van's design similar to banned vehicle - New Brunswick government banned use of 15-passenger vans for student transport after Bathurst High tragedy

The type of van used to transport prisoners in New Brunswick is the
same as the van in which 7 Bathurst High School basketball players
and the coach's wife were killed on January 12, 2008.
An American insurance company says the type of van used to carry prisoners in New Brunswick is similar to the controversial one involved in the Bathurst High School crash in 2008.

The Redwoods Group says the vans have a propensity for rollovers and has banned the use of them by 450 YMCAs across the United States.

Click here to read original article on CBC website.

Redwoods Group vice president Doug Page said the company banned use of both 15- and 12-passenger vans by the YMCAs it insures after a fatal Y accident in Virginina and a second in Florida.

"Those are two tragedies that didn't have to happen and two children lost their lives that didn't have to happen because of the design of the vans themselves," said Page.

"The centre of gravity is higher in those vehicles and that's what causes some of the issues," he said.
Only two of the YMCAs dropped the company as an insurer rather than give up the vans.

In 2012, three prisoners being transported in by New Brunswick Sheriff Services suffered serious injuries when the 12-passenger van they were in rolled over several times. Two sheriffs were also injured.

Former Sheriff Services officer Natalie Doucet says the van swerved at least twice before the driver completely lost control in a snowstorm near Jacquet River.

RCMP blamed the accident on road conditions and no charges were laid.

Sheriff Services uses 12-passenger vans for prisoner transport. The 12-passenger unites have a shorter wheel-base than their controversial 15-passenger cousins, but they are regarded by the Redwoods Group – and by others – as having the same problems.

In 2008, the Bathurst High School basketball team was returning home in the school's 15-passenger van when it was involved in an accident involving a truck in stormy conditions. Seven players and the coach's wife were killed.

Following the Bathurst accident, the provincial government banned the use of 15-passenger vans for transporting students.

Transport Canada motor vehicle safety recommendations for loading a van recommened that if the fewer than the maximum of 12 or 15 people, they should be seated in the front and middle of the van.

"Fill the front and middle seats before the rear seats," the recommendations read. "This will keep the weight toward the front, and help handling."

In the vans Sheriff Services uses for prisoner transport, the prisoners are held in a compartment at the rear of the vehicle.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

CBC The Current: Interview with Richard Foot, author of Driven and Isabelle Hains

CBC's The Current
Friday morning host Pia Chatapi will interview Halifax based writer, Richard Foot, author of DRIVEN and Isabelle Hains of Bathurst, New Brunswick.

Click here to listen to the interview on The Current.