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Municipal vans will not be pulled from service following

Driver training, and vehicle maintenance aid safety

The Municipality will not stop using its multi-passenger vans to transport children, following a fatal crash involving a similar van that killed seven students in New Brunswick.

“The municipality will carry on using these vehicles for now,” said spokeswoman Diane Waltmann.

“We feel with the extra driver training (we provide) and the vehicle checks…that we are doing everything we can to keep the children safe.”

Drivers of the municipality’s two 2003-2004 Ford 350 extended wagon vans have Class 4 licences and must take a two-day defensive driving course. The education includes crash avoidance and how to handle abrupt emergency stops.

Drivers must also do a daily safety check on the vehicles, said Waltmann. That includes checking tire pressure, brakes, hoses, fluid levels, and seat belts.

The vans, which are used to transport kids to after school programs, are also equipped with studded snow tires.

However, said Waltmann, use of the vans has been under review for some time, not just over safety concerns but because they are not wheelchair accessible or economical when large numbers of kids have to be transported. The problem is larger buses do not have seat belts.

Roger Weetman, recreation coordinator for the Resort, said trips to the city for kids might be phased out for these reasons.

He questioned the call by the Canada Safety Council to see this type of van banned for carrying kids.

“As long as they are driven in a correct manner, maintained well … and we are talking about the vans going at sixty kilometers at the most here, the danger of a high-speed collision is reduced significantly in that regard,” he said.

The van in the collision near Bathurst, New Brunswick, which claimed the lives of seven basketball players, is still under investigation. Road conditions were icy and the van did not have snow tires.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued several advisories about the dangers of the 15-passenger vans. About 1,100 people in the U.S. were killed in single vehicle rollovers in the vans between 1992 and 2002. Such vans were found to be three times more likely to roll over than any other vehicle.

Since 2003 automobile manufacturers have been introducing electronic stability controls to improve the safety of their vans.