Thursday, October 25, 2012

Nanaimo Daily News: Editorial: We need to stop use of 15-passenger vans

The Daily News

Published: Thursday, October 25, 2012
Transport Canada is still reviewing evidence surrounding the safety of 15passenger vans before determining whether the controversial vehicles will be banned.

But of course, organizations are free to stop using them at anytime. We're surprised more haven't.

Click here to read original article at the Nanaimo Daily News online

Stella Gurr holds a photo of her son
Michael and his fiancee.
Nanaimo's Stella Gurr has been lobbying the government to ban these vehicles after she lost her 26-year-old son Michael in a 15-passenger van rollover near Brandon, Man. in 2008. The van Michael was travelling in rolled at high speed off a highway in Manitoba.

Gurr and Isabelle Hains, whose son Daniel died in a Bathurst, N.B., tragedy which also involved a 15-seat passenger that killed seven students and one teacher, were instrumental in the launch of a private members bill introduced in the House of Commons last year calling for the complete banning of 15-passenger vans for student use across Canada. The bill's fate is up in the air while Transport Canada conducts a safety review of 15-passenger vans.

The third phase of the review revealed earlier this month that deaths and injuries are greater in these vehicles.
This provides Gurr and Isabelle with even more ammunition in their lobbying efforts.

Of the most concern to Gurr is the fact manufacturers are not required to meet minimal safety standard requirements for roof crush resistance in 15-passenger vans because there is no minimal standard for their weight category.

"We recognize that accidents happen, we've never denied," said Gurr. "But that occupant compartment should provide a reasonable chance of survival and now we know there isn't (a reasonable chance of survival) in a 15-passenger van."

Some public organizations have already stopped using the vans. The Cowichan Valley school district banned the use of 15-passenger vans 21 days after Brian Murphy, a licensed vehicle inspector who worked as a school bus mechanic and driver with the Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district, made a presentation warning them of the safety concerns in January 2010.

But many public and non-profit institutions continue to use the vans. Donna Reimer, Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district spokeswoman, said 15-passenger vans are "occasionally rented" for student travel.

Vancouver Island University has three of the vans in its vehicle fleet, but with the purchase of two 24-passenger busses this year, they hope to take one off the road, "but not because of safety concerns," said Wayne Hiles, facilities service manager.

The Boys and Girls Club in Nanaimo use 15-passenger vans to transport children. According to Len Manuel, manager of facilities: "It is still perfectly legal to use them and we take every precaution to make sure our kids are safe in the vans."

It's not against the law to use these vehicles and, of course, accidents can happen to even the safest cars on the road. However, we're puzzled why organizations would want to take a chance on these vehicles. The evidence regarding safety issues appear to be piling up.

At the very least, institutions that transport children should temporarily stop the use of 15passenger vans until Transport Canada completes its review and makes a definite determination regarding the safety of these vehicles.

Just because it's legal, doesn't mean it's the right thing to do. Let's hope more organizations err on the side of caution.

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