This archived article was written by: Chase Dâ€™Ambrosio
Last year eight students and an instructor from Utah State University were killed in a tragic automobile accident involving a 15-passenger van. The accident was credited to a blowout after the driver had reached an excessive speed while passing another motorist, causing the van to roll and eject all of its passengers. Due to this incident and other accidents that have occurred throughout the nation, the large vans have been deemed unsafe and placed under strict guidelines. Although 15-passenger vans have been used for years as a convenient way to transport people to locations, USU’s tragedy helped the state see the safety concerns the large vans pose.
Many institutions and organizations use the vans because they are able to accommodate at least 15 passengers and are much more inexpensive compared to a bus or shuttle. Although the van’s large stature makes it the perfect vehicle for transporting, it also makes it easier for a fatal accident to occur.
According to www.nhtsa.dot.gov/cars/problems/studies/15PassVans/15passvan.html, between 1990 and 2002, there were 1,576 15-passenger vans involved in fatal crashes that resulted in 1,111 fatalities to occupants of such vans. Of these, 657 vans were in fatal, single-vehicle crashes, of which 349 rolled over. Strict regulations regarding the vans have occurred in colleges throughout the nation, and in most cases the vans have become completely obsolete in hopes to eliminate any further accidents.
According to Vicki Kulow, the director of purchasing/motor pool, the College Of Eastern Utah has three 15-passenger vans and a 12-passenger van in it’s fleet of government-leased, motor-pooled vehicles, which will be replaced by four nine-passenger vans before the end of the year. The vans will be replaced for the personal safety of CEU’s faculty, staff and students, and for state policy and risk management compliance. CEU is also equipped with three Ford Tauruses , and two mini vans to help transport the students and staff to school-related activities.
If a staff member or a student wishes to take advantage of one of CEU’s government-leased vehicles it will be much harder to do so then in previous years says Kulow. Many new rules and regulations have developed in order to keep everyone safe. First of all, according to Kulow if someone wishes to drive one of the vehicles, they must show a valid driver’s license, not have any moving violations within the past 12 months, have the approval of their advisor, and have their name run through a state wide data base to check the drivers driving record. When someone requests one of the larger vans, it is even more difficult for them to posses the privilege of being able to use it. Before the person can use the vehicle, they must meet all the requirements needed to operate one of the smaller vehicles. In addition the driver must be at least 21 years of age, watch a video pertaining to large vehicles and the hazards they create, sign a form saying that they have done so, must have prior experience operating 12- and 15-passenger vans, and must take the van-training course provided or approved by risk management.
Once a person has met these requirements, they are able to use one of the 12- or 15-passenger vans, plus they must meet certain requirements when they are on the road including the vehicles may not have more than nine occupants including the driver, all occupants must wear their seat belts at all times, there is no driving allowed from the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., and the total driving time must not exceed 12 hours without a sleep break at an approved location. The checklist was created by the State of Utah Department of Administrative Services. The vehicles can be used by any student or staff member that meets these requirements and has a legitimate reason for using one of the vehicles. There is an extensive form that the vehicles’ operator must complete after they return from their trip that helps the state determine if the vehicles are being used correctly or not.
The vans are provided by the state to help develop the education in which the students are receiving, the only thing asked from Kulow is that If we want to be treated like adults, then it is about time that we start responding like adults and taking responsibilities for the actions that we make. If there are any questions please contact Kulow in the Physical Plant Building.