03 Oct Church Safety and Security | Use of Church Vehicles
Religious organizations utilize vehicles for a variety of reasons, whether it’s for transporting youth groups, providing rides to community members in need or traveling on mission trips. While using vehicles can certainly benefit religious organizations, doing so also carries significant risks. After all, it only takes a single accident on the road to cause substantial property damage, serious injuries, and related liability issues.
As such, it’s crucial for religious organizations to take steps to address their specific vehicle risks and promote road safety to minimize the likelihood of accidents. This article outlines the main risks of vehicle operation and best practices for religious organizations to mitigate these concerns.
Vehicle Risks in Religious Organizations
There are several different types of vehicles that religious organizations may use based on their particular transportation needs. For instance, cars will likely suffice for providing rides to community members, while larger vehicles (i.e., nine- to 15- passenger vans or buses) could be necessary for transporting youth groups or traveling on mission trips.
Religious organizations may own or rent these vehicles, depending on how often they use them. In some cases, employees or volunteers could drive their own vehicles to assist with religious organization operations. Regardless of vehicle type or ownership, vehicle operation comes with various risks. Namely, the use of vehicles can result in accidents on the road.
These accidents may stem from the following issues:
– Unsafe driving habits—
These habits may include speeding, hard braking, distracted driving (e.g., texting or talking on the phone behind the wheel) and not wearing a seatbelt. Altogether, unsafe driving habits can significantly increase the risk of accidents. In fact, distracted driving alone contributes to more than 3,000 fatalities on the road each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
– Poor vehicle maintenance protocols—
Without proper maintenance procedures in place, vehicle issues could be ignored or undetected (e.g., brake failures or tire pressure problems). As a result, vehicles may be more likely to break down on the road, causing major safety hazards and subsequent accidents. Per NHTSA research, nearly 20% of traffic accidents are the result of poor or lacking vehicle maintenance.
– Inadequate driver policies—
In the absence of effective driver selection and training policies, drivers’ lack of knowledge or experience behind the wheel could contribute to accidents. According to a recent study from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute’s National Surface Transportation Safety Center for Excellence, commercial drivers with less than one year of experience are far more likely to experience vehicle crashes than those with additional experience, regardless of driver age.
When accidents occur, religious organizations could face a multitude of consequences, including vehicle damage and driver injuries or fatalities. Furthermore, religious organizations may be held responsible for any damage or bodily harm to others their drivers cause on the road. Which poses potential liability issues and additional overall accident costs. Considering these serious consequences, it’s vital for religious organizations to implement effective vehicle risk management techniques.
How to Reduce Church Vehicle Risks
Here are some ways that religious organizations can help minimize the risks associated with operating vehicles:
– Establish driver selection guidelines.
Religious organizations should select trusted and competent drivers. These drivers should be required to provide their age, have ample experience, share their driving record (e.g., a motor vehicle report) and show proof of any necessary licensing. In particular, drivers of certain vehicles may need to obtain a commercial driver’s license. As it pertains to passenger vans and buses, religious organizations should verify that drivers are qualified to operate these larger vehicles, considering they come with unique safety risks. Further, drivers who will be responsible for transporting minors might need to meet additional selection criteria (e.g., no criminal record or history of child abuse) to ensure youth protection.
– Uphold maintenance and inspection procedures.
It’s best for religious organizations to refrain from owning any vehicles unless they are capable of keeping up with routine maintenance and inspections. In the case of owned vehicles, religious organizations should have drivers complete both pre- and post-trip inspections. In inspections they should look for issues related to key vehicle components (e.g., engine, brakes, tires, steering wheel, lights, windows, wipers, seats and seatbelts). These inspections should be well-documented. If any issues arise during inspections, they must be addressed immediately and remedied prior to continued vehicle use. Religious organizations should also have all vehicles serviced regularly, hiring qualified professionals to perform maintenance as needed. Such servicing and maintenance needs must be made note of in a organization log. It may be helpful for religious organizations to designate a group of trusted employees to uphold vehicle maintenance schedules and enforce inspection procedures.
– Conduct routine training.
To ensure safe driving practices, religious organizations should require drivers to participate in routine training. Potential training topics may include attentive and defensive driving techniques, fatigue prevention measures, traffic law compliance requirements, seatbelt best practices, road emergency response protocols and methods for driving safely in adverse weather conditions (e.g., rain and snow). Specialized training may also be necessary for drivers who operate certain vehicles. For example, drivers of passenger vans and busses should receive training on preventing rollover accidents.
– Adopt effective policies.
Religious organizations should have clearly documented and well-communicated policies in place regarding their driver selection guidelines, vehicle maintenance and inspection procedures, training requirements and road safety expectations. Additional policies to consider include:
-An accident response and reporting policy
-An organization-owned vehicle usage and storage policy
-A rental vehicle usage policy
-A personal vehicle usage policy
-A vehicle security policy
-A safe driving commitment policy
– Secure proper coverage.
Finally, it’s critical for religious organizations to purchase adequate insurance for protection against potential road accidents and related expenses. The form of coverage necessary will depend on a variety of factors, including vehicle type and ownership. For instance, organization-owned vehicles will require commercial auto insurance, while rented vehicles will need rental vehicle coverage. Further, employees or volunteers who use their own vehicles for organizational operations need to have personal auto insurance in place. Additional protection is possible through religious organizations securing non-owned vehicle coverage. In any case, religious organizations should consult trusted insurance professionals to discuss their specific coverage needs.
In conclusion, it’s clear that religious organizations may encounter a range of risks from implementing vehicles within their operations. Nonetheless, by understanding these risks and taking steps to minimize them, religious organizations can prevent potential accidents on the road. For more risk management guidance, contact us today.
This blog is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel or an insurance professional for appropriate advice. Our Byars|Wright team is here to help, contact us today.