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Children on the Move: Transportation Risk Management

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The following article addresses best practices and related legal compliance for a nonprofit’s transportation of children in connection with its program activities, including considerations for parents, to help nonprofits diminish risks to improve safety and reduce liability. It is adapted from an article published by Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company, with its permission. Brotherhood Mutual® is a national property and casualty insurance company that provides innovative coverages and risk management resources, specifically designed to help Christian ministries operate safely and effectively. The original article can be found here in Brotherhood Mutual’s online resources.

Religious organizations, schools, camps, and other nonprofit organizations often rely on transportation provided by staff as well as volunteers, to help enrich children’s lives through field trips, sports events, ministries, and after-school activities. A well-designed transportation and supervision plan demonstrates a nonprofit’s commitment to safety, builds trust, and protects children on the move. Similar safeguards should be in place for organizational employees who transport children. These steps will help nonprofit leaders diminish the risks to improve safety and reduce liability.

Driver Info and Vehicle Readiness

Require a driver form.

This form identifies the driver’s responsibilities and insurance requirements and provides the nonprofit with related auto insurance details. Make it clear to drivers that their insurance is likely to be primary in most cases. Drivers should be 21 years of age—prohibit teen drivers from transporting minors.

Provide contact info.

Ask the trip organizer to create a master cell phone list that includes each driver, the group leader, teacher, or other administrator. Supply all adults involved in the trip with this list.

Consider non-owned vehicle insurance.

This coverage offers financial protection for the nonprofit if it were to be named in a lawsuit involving the personal vehicle of a worker’s vehicle, a vehicle rented on behalf of the organization, or a staff person’s vehicle.

Discourage caravan travel.

It’s a safety risk to have all drivers “follow the leader.” Supply each driver with the destination’s address and printed directions, even if the driver has GPS navigation.

Prohibit distracted driving.

The organization’s written policy should make clear that drivers using the phone to text or talk (including hands-free options) while driving is strictly prohibited. It’s more than a safety issue; drivers have the opportunity to set a good example to the youth riding in their vehicle, showing that they take the issue seriously. Consequently, instruct drivers to pull off the road when it is safe to do so before using their phone.

Ensure age-appropriate car seats and seat belts.

Transport only as many children as a vehicle can safely accommodate. Pass on vehicles that do not allow for a properly installed safety seat or come equipped with lap/shoulder-style seat belts.

Provide Superior Supervision.

Proper supervision is key to a child’s safety. Good supervision not only helps deter abuse but helps avoid false allegations of abuse. An organization’s procedures need to be explicit: No adult staff member or volunteer should be alone with a single child or youth. This prohibition should extend beyond the context of a vehicle to a camp, on a mission trip, or during any other overnight program.

The Two-Adult Rule.

Brotherhood Mutual recommends the two-adult rule. This rule creates accountability that helps prevent and deter misconduct. It also helps reduce the ability for anyone to make a false accusation. The rule requires that two screened and unrelated adults be present in every vehicle involving children and youth.

The Rule of Three.

When the two-adult rule cannot be supported, the rule of three requires at least three individuals be present, with at least one being an adult. For the rule of three, it’s about accountability—the age and capacity of the children being supervised should be taken into consideration. For example, it is not appropriate for one screened adult worker to be alone with two toddlers or one screened adult to be alone with a teen volunteer and a very young child.

NOTE: The two-adult rule is preferred for children 5 years and younger. In addition to these rules, an organization’s state may regulate children-to-adult ratios.

Order matters.

If a parent or guardian is picking up children from, or dropping off to, different locations, the first child in the car should belong to that adult. For dropping off children, the reverse is true—the last child in the vehicle should belong to the responsible adult.

Additional Resources from the Brotherhood Mutual Safety Library:

Avoid Caravans

Distracted Drivers

Driver Screening Checklist

A note from Brotherhood Mutual regarding the original article:

The information provided in this article is intended to be helpful, but it does not constitute legal advice and is not a substitute for the advice from a licensed attorney in your area. We strongly encourage you to regularly consult with a local attorney as part of your risk management program.

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