Sunday, March 15, 2015

Mothers Say Changes to Motor Vehicle Safety Act A Lasting Legacy

Isabelle Hains and Stella Gurr
Two mothers, who fought for safe student transportation, after their sons were killed in 15-passenger vans, are calling an amendment to Canada’s Motor Vehicle Act a lasting legacy to their Boys’ memory.

Isabelle Hains of Bathurst, New Brunswick and Stella Gurr of Nanaimo, British Columbia announced today that the federal Motor Vehicle Safety Act has been amended to include the MULTIFUNCTION SCHOOL ACTIVITY BUS.

The “MULTIFUNCTION SCHOOL ACTIVITY BUS" (MFSAB) is now officially a new and distinct definition under Canada’s Motor Vehicle Safety Act effective February 11, 2015. 

"MULTIFUNCTION SCHOOL ACTIVITY BUS" means a school bus that is designed to pick up and drop off students under circumstances in which there is no need to control traffic.

These vehicles are built to the same high safety standards as the familiar yellow school buses but do not require the signal stop arm and flashing lights safety features (Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standard #108 and #131).  MFSAB’s are meant for commuting passengers from point to point, rather than the repeated and frequent road-side pick up and drop off necessary to transport students to and from school.

Amendment to the Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations finally defines a Multifunction School Activity Bus In Canada

Canada Gazette Part II,
Vol. 149, No. 3 — February 11, 2015
SOR/2015-23 January 30, 2015

Regulations Amending the Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations (Interpretation and Standards 108 and 131)

On September 30, 2010, the Van Angel mothers, Isabelle Hains and Stella Gurr, travelled to Halifax, NS, to meet with the then Minister of Transport, Chuck Strahl to request that Transport Canada recognize the multifunction school activity bus (MFSAB) as a sub-category of a ‘school bus’ under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act.

Isabelle and Stella lost their sons, Daniel and Michael, in two separate fatal 15-passenger van incidents in 2008.

17 year-old Daniel was one of the seven teen-aged basketball players with the Bathurst High School Phantoms who were killed in a collision between their 15-passenger van and a transport truck in the early morning hours of January 12, 2008.

Michael (age 26) was killed in a single vehicle 15- passenger van roll over on September 25, 2008 outside Brandon, Manitoba while on a cross Canada tour with the band, The Hotel Lobbyists.

The Van Angel mothers’ formal presentation in Halifax in 2010 between the Transport Minister and his provincial/territorial counterparts was a beginning of a long 4 ½ regulatory journey. Since 2008 the Van Angels have actively advocated the banning of the 15-passenger vans for school and small group use. The presentation included strong support from two CUPE school bus drivers (NB and BC), two original members of the CSA D270 working committee as well as New Brunswick safety advocate, Melynda Jarratt.

The Canadian Standards Association Technical Committee on school buses had already developed and introduced the CSA D270 Multifunction Activity Bus (MFAB) standard in 2008. The CSA had already recognized the need for a single federal definition for a vehicle with a school bus body built (CSA D270) but without the signal stop arm and flashing lights. The CSA fully supported the mother’s move to establish a new definition in the Motor Vehicle Safety Act. School bus manufacturers also supported the move towards a new definition, as it would facilitate cross border trade. The MFSAB definition was approved in the US in 2003, and the logical step is to harmonize the regulation with the States.  

The Bathurst tragedy in 2008 shocked the nation and led to calls for changes in the way students were transported for co-and extra- curricular activities, which led to the banning of 15 passenger vans for school use in New Brunswick. To date the 15-passenger vans are banned for all school use in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, Quebec and many school districts across Canada.  It is a provincial/territorial responsibility to decide which vehicles are used for school transportation.

According to the Van Angel mothers, the introduction of this new definition of the MFSAB provides school boards, commercial bus operators, and the general public with an alternate choice of vehicle that would offer a similar safety standard as a yellow school bus.  For decades, Transport Canada and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration both agree that the safest mode of transport for students is a yellow school bus.

Both Isabelle and Stella have always believed that choosing a vehicle that is built to provide the best chance of survival is the key to saving lives and that it is the public's right to demand the safest transportation available.

The mothers want a Van Angels law implemented by all the Provinces and Territories that only allow a yellow school bus or a  Multifunction School Activity Buses for students participating in co-curricular and extra-curricular activities.

The Van Angels have spent the last 7 years honouring their Sons' lives through their advocacy work.  

In Loving Memory and Never Forgotten: Javier Acevedo (17) Codey Branch (17) Nathan Cleland (17) Justin Cormier (17) Daniel Hains (17) Nikki Kelly (15) Nickolas Quinn (16) Michael Gurr (26)