Vehicle and Driver Safety
Driving may be a church or school’s riskiest activity. Often these vehicles are loaded children or youth, our most precious cargo so here are some tips on helping keep your ministry safe.
You must exercise some amount of due diligence for those who operate church or school vehicles or even those who use their own vehicle on behalf of your organization. Therefore a good driver screening process includes:
- A written application/driver approval form: The purpose of this form is simply to provide you with information about a person’s driver activity in regards to licensing, insurance, and driving record. The form we’ve developed also allows them to verify certain critical information of understanding, especially those who might be using their own vehicle.
- Establish minimum standards of acceptability: Once a driver completes a written application, you’ll want to review for acceptability and ideally compare with standards you’ve established. This will include age and appropriate driving record such as the following.
- Age: Driver should be between the ages of 25 and 70 (studies show that drivers under and over these ages are involved in more vehicle crashes that other age groups).
- Driving Record: No more than one at-fault accident and no more than one moving violation on record in the last 36 months.
- Youth Pastor: While we recommend you avoid this if possible, an exception to the minimum age 25 might be granted to youth pastors who are between the ages of 21 and 25 but they must not have any accidents or moving violations on their driving record.
- Proper Licensing: For vehicles of 15-passengers or less, just a regular driver’s license is sufficient but for vehicles exceeding 15-passengers, you must have a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).
- Background Check: If the driver will be transporting minors, a background check is always a good idea.
When leasing a vehicle, follow these guidelines:
- Insurance: When you rent a car or van, you will be given the option of purchasing an insurance policy from the rental agency or signing a Collision Damage Waiver (CDW). A CDW is not a type of insurance; it’s a waiver of the rental agency’s insurance. A few insurance policies extend coverage to rented vehicles, probably most do not, but regardless in all cases we recommend that you purchase this insurance which provides coverage for the vehicle itself. The reasoning for this might include:
- It eliminates the “hassle factor” of whether that ding, scratch or windshield chip was there when you first rented it or not.
- If your policy does not automatically extend coverage, then of course this would be critical for you to purchase the rental agency’s insurance.
- Even if your policy provided coverage, if the vehicle was in the shop for an extended period of time and you were charged for “loss of revenue” most policies would not extend coverage for that.
- Rental Contract: Do not rent in your personal name. Rent in the organization’s name and ideally use a church credit card. This is a legal binding contract and if the contract is in your name, it’s possible your personal insurance could be primary.
- Contract Signing: You will be asked to sign the rental agreement, so sign your name and add “on behalf of XYZ Church” for example.
Lending Vehicles to Others:
When you lend your vehicle to an outside organization, you generally have little control over how the vehicle will be used but yet you still carry financial responsibility for any accidents that occur. I know it’s difficult to think this way but based on this, it’s best to avoid loaning your vehicles to others.
There has been much written on this topic, including our own Transporation Safety Article and recent Blog post, both of which we’d highly encourage you to review. It’s difficult to summarize in a few paragraphs the use of 15-passenger vans but let’s condense it down to some simple safety recommendations – those especially aimed at keeping your organization safe.
- A 2004 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) declared 15-passenger vans “dangerous vehicles” due to their high rollover probability and lack of side impact protection. Even public schools and daycares are prohibited from purchasing 15-passenger vans. While improvements have been made on newer models, the declaration of them being “dangerous vehicles” has not been revised and for that reason, we do not recommend them as a viable source of transportation.
- If you own a 15-passenger van and are not yet able to make other arrangements, if you must use them for transportation, here are a few tips suggested by NHTSA. (1) Remove the back seat and do not allow any passengers and do not place any luggage or other things in that area. (2) If possible, enhance the suspension on these vehicle. There are several products on the market for this and we’ll be happy to share some recommendations that your mechanic can install in a few hours. (3) Do not pull a trailer or haul luggage on top of the van (4) Restrict speed to 65 mph or under.
Distractions include anything that might pull someone’s attention from their primary task: driving!
- Drowsiness: Drivers for your organization may be asked to drive long distances on limited sleep; often the case with youth group outings. In these cases always have at least one qualified back-up driver for each vehicle. Other suggestions include to begin your trip early in the day and stop every 100 miles or about every two hours to rest.
- Cellphone Use: Absolutely restrict the use of cell phones by a passenger only. Drivers are not to talk or text on a cell phone unless they pull safely off of the roadway, preferably into a nearby parking lot.
- Supervision From The Driver Seat: Disruptions in the rear of the vehicle or singing, shouting might lead to distraction for the driver so having a second adult in the vehicle to supervise passengers is always a good idea.
- Follow The Leader: When multiple vehicles are traveling together, it’s easy to fall behind especially when in heavy traffic or difficult weather. In these cases, the driver may feel the pressure to stay catch up. Instead, each vehicle should be equipped with a qualified driver and adequate directions. If communication is needed, arrange a meeting check point or let a passenger make a call on a cell phone.