Monday, October 4, 2010

EDITORIAL Telegraph Journal: Put passenger vans to the ultimate test


Published Monday October 4th, 2010, p. A6

Click here to read the original article in the Telegraph Journal

The 2008 van accident that killed seven Bathurst students and a teacher altered countless lives.

If Isabelle Hains has her way, some of those changes will be for the better.

Her son, Daniel, was one of those killed in the crash. Since the accident, she has worked with other parents and safety advocates to lobby governments to strengthen standards for vehicle safety.

Last week, Isabelle Hains won a major victory in her campaign. She convinced the federal Minister of Transport to review the stability and crashworthiness of 15-seat passenger vans and to examine whether they are suitable as vehicles for transporting students.

In New Brunswick, Quebec and Nova Scotia, schools are forbidden from using these vans for student transportation. Campaigners have also been pushing for federal recognition of the claim that these vehicles are not as safe as school buses.

Parents of accident victims have attended inquests and recently launched a class-action lawsuit against one van manufacturer. A number of lobby groups have joined them in their cause. In the United States, a consumer watchdog organization called The Safety Forum has even described these vehicles as "death traps on wheels." But the courts were never intended as a forum for setting public policy or settling technical issues. That task falls to Transport Canada, and it's letting experts make determinations about safety.

The Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators, which sets vehicular standards, will perform the crash evaluations. Canadians can have confidence that this data will reveal how safe 15-seat vans are.

Whatever the results demonstrate, Isabelle Hains can take pride in what her campaigning has accomplished - a thorough investigation of van-crash causes, and a thorough public debate over how to get students safely to and from school.