1:46 PM EDT

Chris Carney, D-PA 10th

Mr. CARNEY. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may have 5 legislative days within which to revise and extend their remarks and include extraneous material on H. Con. Res. 308.

1:46 PM EDT

Peter A. DeFazio, D-OR 4th

Mr. DeFAZIO. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, this issue has been highlighted and brought to the attention of the committee by the ranking member, Mr. Duncan. It is his resolution and he has been an activist on the committee in highlighting the problems of safety with 15-passenger vans. I appreciate his work on this issue.

We are intending to hold a hearing on safety issues, and include some testimony from individuals who have had family tragedies because of these vans. The vans have had particular problems with single-vehicle rollover crashes. They have higher rollover fatality rates than any other passenger vehicle type. From 2001 to 2005, the death rate for 15-passenger vans was 250 per million registered vehicles compared to 151 per million for all other registered vehicles.

The committee had formerly noted problems with this, and in the SAFETEA-LU legislation which was amended by technical corrections earlier by the House, Congress directed the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration to test 15-passenger vans as part of their rollover resistance program.

We also prohibited schools from purchasing, renting or leasing 15-passenger vans to transport students. But there are still a lot of these vans on the road. It is imperative that drivers be alerted to the increased risk of driving a 15-passenger van compared to a regular passenger vehicle. There have been cases even when the occupants, particularly children, because of their smaller size, were wearing lap and shoulder belts where tragic deaths occurred in some of these rollover crashes.

I look at this resolution as a first step in raising public awareness, and I hope that the committee and other committees which have jurisdiction in this area will take more definitive action in the near future.

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.

1:49 PM EDT

John James Duncan Jr., R-TN 2nd

Mr. DUNCAN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I want to thank Chairman DeFazio for his strong and enthusiastic support for this resolution, and I want to add my support for House Resolution 964.

I introduced this resolution because of a tragic 15-passenger van accident last July in which a 10-year-old girl from my hometown of Knoxville was killed.

Alexis ``Lexie'' James was traveling in a 15-passenger van being driven by close family friends to Savannah, Georgia, for a softball tournament. The driver was not a professional driver with a commercial driver's license. In fact, a commercial driver's license is not required to drive 15-passenger vans. This van was privately owned, and there were only five passengers: the dad and mom, their 16- and 10-year-old children, and Lexie.

On July 17, 2007, as the van was traveling east on Interstate 26 near St. Matthews, South Carolina, the left rear tire of the van blew out, and the van ran off the right side of the highway, down an embankment, overturned, struck a fence, crossed the frontage road, and came to rest on its side.

Everyone in the van was wearing a seat belt, but somehow Lexie slipped out of her belt and was ejected from the van onto the frontage road and was killed.

I have met with Lexie's dad, Patrick James, and he is asking some hard questions about the safety of 15-passenger vans. The resolution we are considering today focuses on safety issues that are firmly within the jurisdiction of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee regarding driver and passenger behavior, including the need for better driver training and passenger safety information.

A 15-passenger van does not handle or operate like a larger version of a passenger car. These vans have a higher center of gravity, which makes them less stable and more difficult to handle. In addition, the bodies of the vans extend 4 to 5 feet beyond the rear wheels, causing instability during emergency maneuvers such as sudden turns. This causes the vans to fishtail, and because they are top heavy and may be overloaded in the rear, they are prone to roll over and result in devastating crashes.

In May of 2005, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a consumer advisory safety warning to all drivers of these vehicles. The precautions that NHTSA recommends for all drivers of 15-passenger vans are:

One, keep your passenger load light.

Two, check your van's tire pressure every week.

Three, require all occupants to use seat belts or the appropriate child restraint.

Four, if possible, seat passengers and place cargo forward of the rear axle.

Five, do not place loads on the van's roof.

Six, be very mindful of speed and road conditions.

Better driver training and more thorough dissemination of safety tips like these are the best tools we have right now to help save the lives of other children and adults riding in 15-passenger vans.

As Chairman DeFazio just stated, this resolution is a first step towards calling the public's attention to the very dangerous situation or condition of some of these 15-passenger vans and how prone they are to very serious vehicle accidents.

I strongly support this resolution and hope to make this important safety issue a priority for the Nation. Mr. Speaker, I urge all of my colleagues to support this resolution.

I reserve the balance of my time.

1:53 PM EDT

Peter A. DeFazio, D-OR 4th

Mr. DeFAZIO. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I would again congratulate the gentleman. It is sad that such a tragedy occurred to one of his constituents. But the best we can do to try to make sense of that tragedy is to try and prevent future tragedies as a result of these sorts of vehicles.

It has been fully my intention as chairman of the committee to hold hearings on both these vans and some other related safety items that have come to the attention of the committee. The reason the hearing has been delayed is because the head of the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has been on administrative leave for personal reasons. We expect her back in the not-too-distant future, and then intend to go ahead.

But in the interim, by passing this legislation we can at least send the message that we have concern and we can try to alert the American public, we can try and avert more tragedies.

I would also point out that our colleagues on the Energy and Commerce Committee have substantial jurisdiction in this area. And hopefully as they cast their votes for this initiative, this resolution here today, they will think about their jurisdiction and perhaps they too will join with us in raising concerns.

With that, I have no further requests for time.