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Four ways to keep volunteer drivers safe

Using volunteer vehicles for church activities

Volunteers are the backbone of any ministry, but they can also be a high source of risk — especially when driving vehicles for church business. If a volunteer has an accident while doing business on a church or ministry’s behalf, even in his own vehicle, the ministry can be held responsible.

Fortunately, with a little diligence, ministries can proactively reduce this risk. Since most motor vehicle accidents are caused by driver behavior, ministries can create formal driver selection, training and vehicle maintenance policies to keep themselves protected.

1. Screening volunteer drivers

Volunteers may have a heart for ministry, but if they don't have an excellent driving record, they shouldn't be used as drivers for church activities. This is where a driver selection policy helps.

When screening your drivers, consider the following:

  • Driving record. Drivers should hold a current and valid driver's license, have no accident record and have no more than one speeding/moving violation in the last three years.
  • Age. It is recommended that drivers be between the ages of 25 and 70.
  • Physical health. Volunteers with serious medical conditions or who take medications that might impair their driving ability should not operate motor vehicles.
  • Personality. Drivers should have a stable personality and should not be easily angered or stressed.

Consider using a Volunteer Driver Form which provides an opportunity for the volunteer to disclose any medical condition.

2. Training volunteer drivers

Once you've screened your drivers, put together a brief driver orientation that explains your ministry's:

  • Driver safety rules
  • Defensive driving guidelines
  • Policies for use of personal vehicles
  • Pre- and post-trip vehicle inspections
  • Vehicle maintenance guidelines
  • Accident response procedures

3. Inspect volunteer vehicles

If a volunteer vehicle is used, it's a good idea for ministries to check out and document the following:

  • Vehicle trip inspection reports. It's wise to perform a vehicle trip inspection for each trip and keep all reports on file for seven years.
  • Type of vehicle. Is the vehicle adequate for its intended purpose? For example, trucks are great for transporting equipment, but not people. It is suggested that churches prohibit the use of 15-passenger vans and vehicles more than 15 years old.
  • Vehicle maintenance. Vehicles should have current registration, up-to-date inspection stickers and properly working safety equipment. If used for transporting people, there should be a safety belt for each occupant.
  • Insurance. Vehicles should be covered by the appropriate insurance coverages, including bodily injury, property damage liability, and uninsured or underinsured motorist protection. Check with your insurance agent if you’re not sure that you have adequate coverage.
  • Vehicle trip inspection reports. It's wise to perform a vehicle trip inspection for each trip and keep all reports on file for seven years.

4. Be vigilant when volunteers drive children

Because your ministry's liability increases whenever children are involved in an activity, it's important to be especially cautious. Remember these rules to help keep children safe on outings:

  • Rule of two. Maintain a proper adult-child ratio when transporting children. Ideally, a minimum of two adults should have responsibility for 20 or fewer children. Add another adult for every 10 children you have above 20.
  • Proper number of passengers. Never try to transport more passengers than a car or vehicle is designed to carry.
  • Parental release forms. Get a signed parental release form for each outing.

By developing a volunteer driver policy that includes driver selection criteria, training and routine vehicle inspections, you are well on your way to providing a safe environment where ministry — not risk — can be your focus.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be construed as legal advice. Readers should use this article as a tool, along with best judgment and legal advice to determine appropriate policies regarding the use of volunteer drivers and their vehicles.