Friday, July 2, 2010

Safety advocate hopes Ottawa will do the right thing'

Stella Gurr of Nanaimo, British Columbia and Isabelle Hains of Bathurst, NB went to Ottawa in May to witness the introduction of Bill C-522, a bill to ban the use of 15 passenger vans for student transport. On June 25, Minister of Transport John Baird announced he will study the use of 15 passenger vans for student use.

Transportation: Feds agree to study use of 15-passenger vans by schools

BATHURST - A Bathurst mother is praising the Canadian government's decision to study the use of 15-passenger vans for school transportation.

Click here to read original article in the Telegraph Journal on line

Federal Transport Minister John Baird announced this week the government will review the safety standard applicable to 15-passenger vans, with the intent to increase awareness of passenger safety among school board authorities.

"By launching this review, we can determine the best safety options for students during their trips and help to prevent tragedies on our roads," Baird said in a statement.

Isabelle Hains, who became a leading safety advocate after losing her 17 year-old son Daniel in a tragic 2008 crash involving one of the vans, called the announcement a "huge step forward" that will change the face of student safety in Canada.

"I'm cautiously optimistic that the minister will do the right thing and ban these 15-passenger vans in schools," said Hains, who travelled to Ottawa last month to support a private member's bill introduced by Acadie-Bathurst New Democrat MP Yvon Godin. The bill called for the prohibition of 15-passenger vans for student transportation.

Baird said the review will include consultation with provincial and territorial governments, an assessment of the safety and stability of 15-passenger and multi-function activity buses, and brake testing and vehicle rollover threshold testing.

Upon completion, Transport Canada will undertake a safety awareness campaign to heighten knowledge of the safe use of the vans.

In addition to the study, Baird also announced that the issue of 15-passenger vans will be raised at the transport ministers' conference in Halifax in September.

Hains said she plans to attend the conference to remind the ministers of the terrible toll these vehicles have had on families across Canada.

She welcomed the proposed awareness campaign mentioned by Baird, but cautioned that there is no safe use of 15-passenger vans.

"Students depend on adults to make the right decisions to keep them safe," said Hains. "We believe the minister will make the right decision and ban these vehicles forever in schools across Canada."

Despite their questionable safety record, the vans are popular transportation for school boards, sports teams and daycare centres.

In recent years, the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued numerous safety warnings about the vans, which are now banned for the transporting of children in 43 American states. The United States government also prohibits the sale of the vans to schools and daycares.

Only three provinces in Canada have banned the use of 15-passenger vans for student transportation. Nova Scotia stopped using the vehicles in 1986 after two accidents resulted in the deaths of students. New Brunswick banned their use following the Bathurst tragedy. Quebec took the initiative in the summer of 2008 and will not allow 15-passenger vans to be used by schools.

Click here to read original article in the Telegraph Journal on line