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EDITORIAL: Church vans demand safety first


Neither case involved a Church of Christ, but two recent tragedies in which aging church vans blew tires raise important questions about church vehicle safety and maintenance.

These questions demand the immediate attention of church leaders nationwide.

In the first case, a Georgia church van headed to an out-of-state revival blew a tire on a highway and flipped repeatedly, ejecting all 19 people on board and killing a minister, his daughter and two others.

In the second case, six people died when a New York church van blew a tire and flipped several times.

Neither case involved a Church of Christ, but two recent tragedies in which aging church vans blew tires raise important questions about church vehicle safety and maintenance.

These questions demand the immediate attention of church leaders nationwide.

In the first case, a Georgia church van headed to an out-of-state revival blew a tire on a highway and flipped repeatedly, ejecting all 19 people on board and killing a minister, his daughter and two others. 

In the second case, six people died when a New York church van blew a tire and flipped several times.

The 10 deaths in separate crashes prompted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to recommend users of 15-passenger vans take specific steps to keep occupants safe. The agency directed its advisory to churches and others that may be keeping older vans in service longer than usual because of tight budgets.

The specific safety tips:

• If you are an owner, make sure the vehicle is properly maintained.

• Owners should make sure drivers are fully trained, experienced in operating a van and properly licensed.

• Vans are highly sensitive to loading and should not be overloaded under any circumstances. Overloading not only increases rollover risk, but it makes the vehicle more unstable in any handling maneuvers.

• Owners should make sure that properly sized tires are being used on their vehicles.

• Before every trip, drivers should check the tires for proper inflation and make sure there are no signs of wear. Tire size and inflation pressure information can be found in the owner’s manual.

• If you are a passenger, make sure you buckle up for every trip.

Accidents happen. Not every tragedy can be avoided. 

But the federal guidelines provide an important starting point for taking every precaution possible to protect churches’ most precious cargo.

In the two recent tragedies, consider this: Properly inflating tires and buckling seat belts might have saved lives.

Beyond basic steps, many congregations require anyone driving a church van to complete a safety training course. We urge other churches to consider doing the same.

To assure proper maintenance and help with safety concerns, other churches rent newer vehicles for longer trips. 

Taking transportation safety seriously means never pulling out of the church parking lot without everyone buckled in. It means never putting more people into a van or other vehicle than legally allowed. It means never driving above the speed limit.

And, yes, it means always paying attention to the road.

“Too many times the driver is trying to have fun with the kids, and that’s not a good mix,” one church member told us.

Driving a church vehicle requires proper training and maturity. If a person drives poorly or unsafely, no matter who it is — parent, minister or even elder — don’t be afraid to make a change. 

Now. 

Lives depend on it.

Filed under: Editorial Staff Reports

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