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Vans don't kill people. People kill people.

Passenger vans are dangerous. Well, actually, passenger vans aren't dangerous, but some people (you know who you are) are incompetent drivers, and have accidents while driving vans.

But the officials, from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, concluded that the vans, which are also commonly used by airport shuttle services and day care centers, were not inherently dangerous. Many of the problems, it said, are attributable to inexperienced drivers piloting fully loaded vehicles.
As with SUVs, drivers are handling the vehicles as though they are cars, despite the higher centers of gravity which cause them to tip over when turned too sharply. Oh, and of course there's the obvious problem:
It also stressed the use of seat belts. In another report on the vans, the agency said the overwhelming majority of the people who died in 15-passenger van crashes were not wearing seat belts.
So the solution is... to train everyone better? Of course not. Explain to them that they should use safety equipment if they want to be safe? Nope. Let individuals decide whether the risk is worth it? Don't be silly.
The 15-passenger vans are popular in public school fleets because of their ample capacity and modest price usually less than $30,000 compared with $35,000 or more for a bus of similar size. Congress moved to ban them for public school use in 1974 because they were regarded as far less safe than standard school buses. But it left several loopholes that Representative Mark Udall, Democrat of Colorado, is trying to close with new legislation. His bill would also prohibit colleges and universities from using the vans.
I wonder if Mark Udall plans to pay colleges and universities for the lost value of their worthless vans after he gets done outlawing them. And why the heck is a Congressmen inserting himself into what is clearly a local matter, anyway?

I was struck by the contrast between the typical Big Government Democratic approach to every problem, and free market solutions to the problem of unsafe driving, when reading about this new gizmo, being released to the general public shortly: a black box for cars. The device plugs into the diagnostic equipment of cars, and trains drivers to drive better by beeping when they don't. It also allows supervisors (in the case of professional drivers) or parents (in the case of teenage drivers) to monitor the driving habits of the drivers.

The software compiles the data to give drivers a single score for their skills, from Level 1, the lowest, to Level 10. Emergency service agencies ask drivers to reach Level 5, which equates with driving eight miles without a beep. From paramedics and police officers to teenagers, drivers start at Level 1. Ms. Gibeaut started there too.

"My turning and my stopping, I thought they were perfectly good, but I guess they're not," she said. But her record started improving quickly, and she said she now feels guilty if she drives the way she used to.

Ambulance drivers have had the same experience. American Medical Response, a company in Aurora, Colo., that provides ambulance service in 35 states, has installed the systems in 20 percent of its 4,000 vehicles during the last five years.

The results in San Antonio were striking, said Ron Thackery, vice president for safety, risk management and fleet administration. The entire group went from Level 1 to Level 5 in less than 90 days, he said.

"It's almost like Pavlov's dog in terms of conditioned response," he said. "That immediate feedback and conditioning helps to improve the safety of the driving."

The company has also seen a drop in maintenance costs and a decrease in collisions, he said. And when members of the public call to complain about ambulance drivers, the data can reveal whether the complaint is legitimate.

This device costs professionals about $3,500, and is expected to cost $300 for the general public. Compare that to Mark Udall's approach, which would cost schools the $30,000 they spent on the vans. But the difference between this equipment and Mark Udall's approach is that a congressman can't take credit for black boxes. He can't pretend he's doing something useful if he sits back and lets a problem be solved privately.


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