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Establish standards for church drivers

  • 2003 8 Aug
  • COMMENTS
Establish standards for church drivers
Transportation is the most easily recognized danger area in youth ministry. Most youth workers admit to overloading vehicles with too many people, breaking the speed limit, not using seat belts, and committing other offenses for which police routinely write tickets.

An increasing number of churches are recognizing the need for a vehicle committee that sets policies and monitors drivers and vehicles. By creating a written policy - then implementing it - you can ensure quality standards for all drivers. The committee could consist of four to six people, with representation from the pastoral staff, the church governing board, parents of the youth, and the youth ministry staff. The written policy statement should address who can use church-owned vehicles and for what reason; state the process of identifying qualified drivers; list the responsibilities of a driver before, during, and after a trip; and provide written guidelines for those responsible for maintenance and upkeep of church vehicles. You should also establish a separate policy for the ministry's use of borrowed vehicles (vehicles owned and operated by parents and volunteers). Every potential driver should meet a standard of qualifications so that no young person is ever placed with an unsafe driver.

Who can drive:

  • Acceptable age. The person should be a least 21 years old. (Check with your local insurance agent to ensure that this is sufficient. Some companies require that drivers be 25.)

  • Driving record. Each driver's record should be checked for traffic violations and accident records.

  • Personal insurance coverage. The committee should know how much insurance each driver carries on his or her personal policy. Set a minimum level of coverage required to be a driver for the youth ministry. (Example: \$100,000 per person and \$300,000 per incident.)

  • Agreement to safe driving standards. Provide a written statement describing responsible driving. Each driver should read and sign the statement, and the statement should be kept on file by the committee.

  • Student drivers. Do not let other youth drive with a student driver. If a student is determined to drive, have him or her meet you at the destination. Be sure to discuss this with the driver's parents.

Helping drivers do their best. Drivers are special volunteers who deserve quality treatment:

  • Written directions and information. Include a map and phone number to the destinations. Provide in the same packet any money needed for gas or tolls and any special instructions about the trip, such as planned stops to eat or use the restrooms.

  • Adult support. Depending on the length of the trip, drivers may need other qualified adult drivers traveling with them. They can share driving time, handle directions, and deal with any distractions in the vehicle. Requiring leaders to drive home after tiring weekends with little sleep puts the youth in the vehicle at risk. Extra drivers are also insurance in case any leader is unable to drive home because of illness or injury.

  • Trial run. Make sure every driver has a practice run in the vehicle he or she will drive prior to the actual trip. Driving a van or pulling a trailer is different from driving a passenger car. Practice tight turns, parking, braking, and backing up.

  • Emergency plan. Prior to the trip, discuss with all drivers your plans for communication with other drivers or handling emergencies. If you are traveling in a caravan, what will your signal be if someone needs to stop immediately or at the next rest area? What should a driver do if he or she becomes separated from the caravan? How will you handle bad weather or driving conditions?

  • Follow the example. The head of staff sets the pace. The volunteer drivers need to see the one who makes the rules living by the same rules. Uniform observance of speed limits, seat-belt requirements, and other guidelines is a practical demonstration to the students and drivers of your commitment to safety.

Note: Don't be overwhelmed. You may think that setting high standards will eliminate all volunteers who don't want to go through the hassle of filling out forms. In reality, you are showing parents that you want only the best for their children.

Reprinted with permission from Better Safe Than Sued by Jack Crabtree. Copyright (c) 1998 by Jack Crabtree and the Livingstone Corporation. Used by permission of Group Publishing, Inc., 1515 Cascade Ave., Loveland, CO 80539, 1-800-447-1070.