Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ottawa Citizen: MP to introduce bill to ban 'death-trap' vans

By Richard Foot, Canwest News Service May 26, 2010

Yvon GodinFor two years, Isabelle Hains and other grieving parents who lost their sons in one of Canada's worst highway tragedies have campaigned for a national ban on 15-seat passenger vans.

On Thursday, Hains will watch from the visitors' gallery of the House of Commons, to witness what she hopes is the first step in that process as her New Brunswick MP, NDP House whip Yvon Godin, introduces a private member's bill aimed at outlawing 15-seat vans for student travel.

Twelve- and 15-seat vans have been called "death traps" by U.S. consumer watchdog Safety Forum, and the U.S. has banned their sale for the purpose of transporting children. But they are still in use across Canada.

Hains' son, Daniel, and six other members of the Bathurst High School basketball team were killed, along with a teacher, when their 15-seat school van swerved on the Trans-Canada Highway and collided with a transport truck in northern New Brunswick in January 2008.

A subsequent coroner's inquest recommended the vans be banned across Canada for transporting students to school-based and after-school activities.

However, a Canwest News investigation last year revealed only Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have imposed a ban, and the vans remain in widespread use.

The vans contain none of the common safety features of cars or minivans, such as steel side plates, reinforced roofs or laminated windows, that protect passengers in a crash.

The vans also have a dangerously high centre of gravity and a propensity to fishtail at high speeds.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says they are more prone to rollover crashes than any other vehicle.

"Schools in this country are required by law to take children to school in yellow school buses, the safest vehicles on the road," says Hains. "But in the evenings and on weekends they're being transported in 15-passenger vehicles that don't have the same safety features.

"I don't understand why Parliament just doesn't go across the board and say, 'No one can use these vehicles.'"
© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

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