By Eric Spacek, JD, ARM
Taking a mission trip, or traveling to a convention, concert or speaking event are great ways to extend the reach of your ministry. However, once you begin transporting members off the property on behalf of the church, there are special circumstances to consider. Make sure you ask yourself these five questions before your next road trip.
1) Does your organization have a transportation policy in place? Creating a transportation policy helps to more adequately keep your members and volunteers safe and secure. To determine if your policy has room for improvement, take an assessment of your current policies and procedures, and identify areas that could be enhanced. Consider the following questions:
- Is there a team or person who oversees church transportation?
- Do we have a written and clearly communicated transportation policy?
- Has our insurance agent been consulted about our transportation plans?
- Do we recognize that mini-buses meeting federal school bus standards are among the safest vehicles on the road?
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- Don’t let your missions trip become a nightmare
2) Have you screened your drivers and checked their motor vehicle records? Before allowing anyone to drive on behalf of your church, ensure that person is capable of handling this responsibility by requesting a motor vehicle report. This report details any accident or traffic offense the person has been convicted of to help ensure you have capable and safe drivers transporting your congregation. Have potential drivers complete a request for criminal/motor records check to gain permission to perform this check.
3) Has a vehicle inspection been performed? Before you leave for your trip, perform a vehicle inspection to help ensure your vehicle is in proper working order and will be able to safely transport your travelers to your destination. Items to check include:
Exterior — Check for body damage, loose trim or moldings, and tire pressure and tread. Also, ensure the locks work and the registration is current.
Under the hood — Check the battery, belts, all fluid levels, and look for leaks and loose components.
Interior — Check the general housekeeping of the vehicle interior for loose objects that could lodge under the brake pedal and cause an accident. Ensure all seat belts work and all necessary safety equipment is properly stored.
Engine — Start the engine and check for any unusual noises, and inspect the gauges, parking brake, temperature system and other driving features.
4) Is the vehicle(s) properly equipped? Before any church-sponsored road trip, ensure any vehicle transporting people on behalf of the church has adequate safety equipment and supplies. Doing so can help minimize dangers, treat injuries and keep a bad situation from becoming worse.
Consider including the following items in your safety kit:
- Insurance information
- Jumper cables
- Communication devices for use between vehicles
- Duct tape
- Paper towels and toilet tissue
- Emergency phone numbers
- Radio with fresh batteries
- Fire extinguisher (dry chemical)
- Rags and towels
- First aid kit
- Warning reflectors
- Flashlight and batteries
- Jumper cables
5) Are your passengers aware of the vehicle rules? Distracted driving is a dangerous epidemic on America’s roadways. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 3,300 people were killed on U.S. roadways in 2011 as a result of distracted driving, and an estimated 387,000 people were injured.
These numbers stress the importance of all those in the vehicle — including the driver — working to reduce any distractions. This includes eating and drinking, grooming, reading maps, texting, adjusting the radio and using a cell phone. Encourage all passengers to read and sign a trip safety rules agreement.
Taking the necessary precautions
While this list is not all-inclusive of the various matters to consider before your next church trip, they are important items to keep in mind before you set off on your next adventure. Taking trips can be a fun and enjoyable part of your ministry, but they can quickly go wrong if you get in an accident or some other unfortunate situation. Considering these questions and taking the proper steps to correct any gaps will help you get off to a good start on your next trip.
Eric Spacek, JD, ARM is senior church risk management & loss control manager at GuideOne Insurance in West Des Moines, IA.