An Iowa-based insurance company is waging a nationwide campaign to convince its policyholders to get rid of their 15-passenger vans in favor of vehicles it says are safer. GuideOne is the nation’s largest insurer of churches, thousands of which use the big vans to carry parishioners. The vans are cheaper than mini-buses and driving the vans doesn’t require a special license. GuideOne chief operating officer Jan Beckstrom says the vans are subject of a massive mailing campaign. Beckstrom says GuideOne insures about 50-thousand churches nationwide, churches that own about 15-thousand of the big vans. She says statistics and research shows the vans are dangerous. A report finds more than 500 people have died nationwide in those vans in crashes since 1990. A GuideOne survey of its own claims found eight deaths and 42 serious injuries due to 15-passenger van accidents between July 1 of 2000 and July 1 of 2001. Beckstrom says mini-buses cost around 30-thousand dollars, which is eight-to-ten-thousand dollars more than a big van, but she says it’s money well-spent. Beckstrom says removing the back seat of the 15-passenger vans can make them safer, but she says the best alternative is buying a mini-bus. She says GuideOne has negotiated a discount with a mini-bus maker that’s now available to its policyholders. The company has already spent more than 100-thousand dollars mailing information about vans and buses to its policyholders. GuideOne has about 900 employees, 600 of them at the corporate headquarters in West Des Moines.
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