Isabelle Hains of Bathurst, N.B., and Stella Gurr of Nanaimo, B.C. call themselves Van Angels. After both of their sons died in separate accidents while riding in 15-passenger vans for school-related functions, Hains and Gurr are crusading for legislation that might prevent future tragedies under similar circumstances.
The pair proposed an amendment to Canada's Motor Vehicle Safety Act which would change the way school boards, organizations, and the general public view transportation of students and small groups in Canada. Van Angels urged Canadian safety regulators to create a special classification for a vehicle with the body of a school bus and safety standards to match.
On March 16, the amendment was added to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Act. The act will now include the distinction of multifunction school activity bus (MFSAB) to be used for school-related activities. Angels says the MFSAB is a marked improvement over the 15-passenger vans like the ones their sons were riding in during their fatal accidents.
"Like many other Canadians, I knew nothing about the serious safety concerns associated with 15 passenger vans until my son was killed."
The new vehicle classification went into effect Feb. 11, 2015. The abbreviation MFSAB will be clearly marked on the vehicles certification labels so consumers can clearly see what they are purchasing.
It will be clearly identified on the vehicle certification label; 'School Bus' or 'MFSAB'," Gurr told the Sackville Tribune-Post.
The next obstacle Van Angels hopes to overcome is raising awareness about the dangers of 15-passenger vans at the school district level. Hains and Gurr fear that many schools will continue to use the vans, which are widely used in many provinces.
Like many other Canadians I knew nothing about the serious safety concerns associated with 15 passenger vans until my son was killed," Hains said. "I had to educate myself and had to push and fight for changes to safe student transportation."
The MFSAB vehicles have passed stringent safety tests by Canadian regulators, and Van Angels hopes schools across Canada will adopt this new classification of vehicle and phase out the use of the 15-passenger van.