Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Nanaimo News Bulletin: BC Mom and Student Safety Advocate Hopeful About 15 Passenger Van Review by Transport Canada

Nanaimo residents Stella Gurr and Bryan Murphy with Isabelle Hains of Bathurst, New Brunswick, in Ottawa, Ontario, May 27, 2010. Gurr, Murphy and Hains were in Ottawa for the introduction of Bill C-522 by MP Yvon Godin (Acadie-Bathurst), which calls for the banning of 15 passenger vans for student transportation across Canada. Following the introduction of Bill C-522, federal Transport Minister John Baird announced Transport Canada will undertake a safety review of 15 passenger vans and said the topic will be discussed at the upcoming Transport Ministers' meeting in Halifax, September 29-30, 2010.

Click here to read article "Ottawa to review safety of 15-passenger vans" in the Nanaimo News Bulletin

By Jenn Marshall, Nanaimo New Bulletin

Two Nanaimo residents fighting for a ban on the use of 15-passenger vans are hopeful a federal safety review will take the controversial vehicles off the road.

Transport Minister John Baird announced the safety review last week. It will include consulting with provincial and territorial governments, assessing the safety and stability of the vans, as well as other vehicles used to transport students to extracurricular activities, and brake testing and testing to determine the vehicle rollover threshold.

Nanaimo residents Stella Gurr and Bryan Murphy are heavily involved in the fight against using the vans. Both went to Ottawa recently to hear the first reading of new legislation that would prohibit use of the vans to transport students or the importation of the vans.

Gurr got involved after her 26-year-old son was killed when the van he was in rolled over in Manitoba in September 2008 – just months after another 15-passenger van rollover took the lives of eight high school students near Bathurst, New Brunswick.

Guss is cautiously optimistic about the review, but noted it focuses on use of the vans for students, rather than broader public use.

Transport Canada also plans to launch an awareness campaign about safe use of the vehicles after the review is completed, which Gurr worries will mean continued use of the vans.

“That’s the line that really bothered me,” said Gurr. “I feel there’s no safe use of them, period. I believe the review needs to strike right at the heart of the problem – the actual design of the van.”

Murphy, a mechanic and bus driver for Nanaimo school district and treasurer of CUPE local 606, has travelled around B.C. on behalf of his union to speak with communities about the dangers of the vehicles.

He wants to attend the Council of Ministers meeting in September in Halifax, where leaders from across Canada will discuss the issue.

“The last time they did a review was in 2001 and there’s a lot of information that’s available now that wasn’t available then,” he said. “The vehicles are unstable. If this is an opportunity to find a way to make it work, that’s really disappointing.”

Murphy’s research on the vans, which indicates that the vehicles’ high centre of gravity makes the vans prone to rollovers when drivers lose control, was enough to convince Cowichan trustees to ban the vehicles. Nanaimo trustees have not taken a similar step.

The argument against banning the vehicles is that they are the most cost-effective way to take students to and from extra-curricular events.

An e-mailed response from Transport Canada states that if any class of vehicle is found to be dangerous based on safety history and casualty statistics, the department could impose regulations to address the cause of the problem.

Provinces regulate vehicle use, while Transport Canada regulates the design and construction of new vehicles based on performance criteria.

Click here to read article "Ottawa to review safety of 15-passenger vans" in the Nanaimo News Bulletin