Stop use of unsafe 15 Passenger Vans for our children

The New Brunswick government has suspended the use of 15-seat passenger vans to transfer students to and from school following a horrific crash that killed seven students and a teacher from Bathurst, N.B., Jan 11, 2008.

In the Jan. 17/08 Pique story, the RMOW said that it may phase out any long trips for the Kids-On-The-Go Program. These field trips are part of what makes this program fun and interesting for our children. We are surprised and upset that phasing out long trips is the RMOW's solution to using unsafe vehicles. It seems the bigger issue is that these vehicles are unsafe for any transportation of our children, whether around Whistler or further afield.

We are especially appalled that the "recreation coordinator" for the RMOW, questions the call by the Canada Safety Council to see this type of van banned for carrying kids. To follow are just a few reports from recent news with quotes from many "Authorities" on the safety of vehicles, who beg to differ with him!  

 -As stated by Safetyforum.com, a Washington-based consulting group that gathers accident information for litigation, "such shortcomings make the 15-passenger van literally a death trap on wheels."

 -Also after its insurance company raised concerns, Edmonton Public Schools began restricting use of 15-passenger vans in 2005 by stipulating a maximum of 12 pupils, not using the backseats for students or gear, and disallowing roof racks and trailers. However, last month the board issued a directive barring the vans as of Sept. 1, "due to the number of accidents these vans have been involved in." Until then, the board's fleet of 15 vans can only be used within city limits.  

 -"Where the van gets itself in real trouble is when it's involved in an impact from the side, a glancing blow, anything that might cause an intrusion, because it's just a light shell of metal over some metal uprights and not much of a barrier in keeping another vehicle out," said David White, Director of the Motor Carrier division of the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board, a regulatory body.

 -Four recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) advisories prompted the U.S. Congress to make it illegal for American schools to buy new, 15-passenger vans for transporting their students. More than 40 US states now prohibit the use of 15-passenger vans for taking students to and from public schools. The U.S. advisories also said such vans are prone to fishtailing and are difficult to bring back under control, particularly at high speeds, and especially when the vans are heavily loaded. The Bathurst, NB High School van was carrying 12 of 15 possible passengers, including the driver, when it crashed.

 -"If you have any loss of control for any reason, it's very difficult to get the van back under control," says Jeff Wiggington, a Texas lawyer who has campaigned hard to have the vans removed from U.S. roads. Because of the weight on the rear axle, "the front tires are less responsive than you expect them to be to any steering inputs, so the driver is deceived into steering too much or too little into what happens on the roadway. The bottom line is that a minor error often becomes fatal in a 15-passenger van, whereas in most vehicles it is not."

The driver training that the RMOW offers is good but obviously not the solution in this case. We feel very strongly that these vans should no longer be used by our municipality for transportation of our children or any other of our cherished citizens. 
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