With fatalities reportedly continuing to mount despite state and federal laws prohibiting the transportation of school children in large passenger vans, a Prosser, Washington couple has decided to act.
Tim and Frances Bardessono, whose daughter Corinne was killed in 2003 when she was illegally transported in a Ford E350 15-passenger van, have begun sending letters to more than 2,163 Washington schools, 211 state and local police departments, and 137 rental car offices statewide to warn them against the use of such vans for transporting students.
“This effort is to help make sure that no school students are ever
illegally transported in these vans. School buses are hundreds of times safer, and the law requires them for the transport of school children. With the help of Washington school district officials, police and others with power to help enforce the laws, we can ensure that no more Washington children have to die in these large passenger vans,” pleaded Tim Bardessono.
The Bardessonos point out in the letter that large passenger vans have
reportedly been involved in many deadly single vehicle rollovers and federal regulators and the State of Washington have passed laws prohibiting their use for the transport of school children. Federal laws and regulations prohibit the sale or lease of new 15-passenger vans to transport students to and from school or a school-related activity unless the vehicle meets rigorous federal safety standards that are required for school buses.
“There have been over 1,500 deadly accidents in 15-passenger vans. These vans have an 80% rollover rate in fatal crashes,” Bardessono noted. “The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued three warnings against 15-passenger vans, first in 2001, again in 2002, and recently in June 2004. The School Bus Information Council has also issued multiple warnings. NHTSA recommends that pre-school and school aged children should not be transported in these vehicles due to safety concerns,” Frances
The letter alerts recipients that NHTSA-authorized by Congress to
establish the federal motor vehicle safety standards for school buses-has determined that “any van (with a capacity of more than 10) sold or leased for use as a school bus” to transport “preprimary, primary, and secondary” students to or from school or related events must “meet the safety standards applicable to school buses.”
Those safety standards are expressed in federal law 49 U.S.C. Section 30125; 49 C.F.R. 553. The NHTSA report called “Use of
Nonconforming Vehicles for School Transportation” is available at
The letter also informs recipients that 29 states, including Washington, have enacted laws regulating the use of 12 and 15 passenger vans for transporting students. The Washington laws WAC 392-143-015 and WAC 392-143-070 are available at http://www.leg.wa.gov/WAC/.
Washington state regulations require that vehicles used to transport students with a seating capacity over 10, including the driver, must meet the NHTSA school bus specifications. Only school buses and not 12 and 15-passenger vans reportedly conform to the safety requirements permitting them to be used to lawfully transport school children.
The letter includes stickers that have been developed to warn occupants of the high risk of rollover and to keep school children out of large passenger vans. The adhesive backed stickers stating “WARNING. ROLLOVER RISK. NO SCHOOL CHILDREN IN VAN” allow schools, other groups, van owners and rental agencies to apply them in a prominent place on the vehicle.
The Bardessonos are also accepting requests for the stickers from the public on a first-come first-served basis, and have posted information on how to make a request at http://www.vanangels.com.
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