Limit auto liability exposure with proper risk management
By Betty Norman
A significant amount of auto liability exposure arises when staff and volunteers spend a large amount of time traveling or running errands on the church’s behalf — in church vehicles or their own. Fortunately, this exposure can be reduced through proper risk management.
Staff / volunteer screening. If driving might be a part of a staff member or volunteer’s role, information related to their current license and driving history / record should be obtained as part of the application process.
Consider implementing a policy which states that driving records will be reviewed prior to hire or first assignment. Define what’s considered an acceptable driving record, and complete reviews on a consistent basis.
Additionally, as part of the hiring process, obtain (and verify) a photocopy of a current, valid driver’s license, as well as evidence of current auto liability insurance for the personal vehicle to be used — one which meets the state’s minimum requirements.
Distracted driving. Recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics show that more than 90 percent of motor vehicle crashes are caused by human error. Moreover, 20 percent of injury crashes — and 16 percent of fatal crashes — involve reports of distracted driving. Clearly, staff or volunteers who drive for church activities are at risk for a serious crash, which might result in a lawsuit.
To limit the risks:
Define who is permitted to run church errands in their own and / or church-owned vehicles. Allowing any and all volunteers to run errands significantly increases a church’s exposure, as well as the time and expense of driver screening.
Announce your commitment to safety. According to the National Safety Council, organizations that allow employees or volunteers to conduct business on cell phones while they’re driving are at four times greater risk of a crash. Policies on cell phone use, plus employee training on driver safety issues, demonstrate a commitment to a safe workplace.
Actively investigate each reported on-the-job motor vehicle accident.
Accident reporting and investigation allow for identification of how and where risks in the workplace arise. The process might provide additional insights about how to prevent accidents from recurring.
Provide driver safety training. Establishing a tailored driver safety program can help decrease a church’s liability, from a non-owned liability standpoint.
Many online resources are available to assist with employee education, including a government website.
Many employees will recognize that any distraction while driving is a potential risk; even so, it’s important to reinforce this mindset through policy / procedure and regular employee training programs and updates.
Training sessions might also address the need to perform periodic preventative maintenance, per manufacturer-suggested guidelines for their vehicles, and to follow safe driving practices — using seatbelts and not eating or using cell phones while the vehicle is in operation, to name a few.
Mitigating risk starts today
The increasing traffic congestion on our community roads and highways leads to risky driving behavior. Employees and volunteers might feel pressured to drive faster and engage in potentially distracting in-vehicle activities to meet timelines.
It’s important that individuals responsible for those who drive for the church remember that attention to driver screening and selection, vehicle use policies and safe driver training programs can play a critical role in minimizing the risk of accidents.
Betty Norman, BSN, MBA, CPHRM is Director, Risk Control Services at Glatfelter Religious Practice in York, PA.