In the church safety series, we’ve discussed forming a safety team and steps to take to make your church safer. Keeping your members and attendees safe doesn’t end when you leave the church grounds. Many churches use church vehicles to transport those who are otherwise unable to come to church and for off-campus events so church vehicle safety should be a high priority.
If your church owns or leases vans, buses, or other vehicles, it’s the church’s responsibility to keep them properly maintained and safe.
Review your insurance
Be sure your auto insurance covers collisions and liability and includes roadside assistance in case of emergencies. If you let church members and volunteers drive others in their personal vehicles, find out if your church’s insurance covers anything in case of an accident.
If your church or auto insurance provider has specific requirements for drivers, make sure your church adheres to them. Many insurance companies have age restrictions on who can drive vehicles. Youth pastors may be too young to drive, or other volunteers may be considered to be too old to drive.
Many insurance companies also require those who drive church vehicles to undergo motor vehicle record checks. It’s a good idea to include this in your church’s background check program even if your insurance doesn’t require it. Drivers may also need a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) to drive some church vehicles.
Maintain your vehicles
Evaluate your church’s transportation needs and vehicles annually. As the years go by and your needs change, consider purchasing newer vehicles or selling or trading vehicles your church no longer uses.
Due to the risk of overturning, many churches are phasing out 15-passenger vans in favor of buses or smaller vans with seat belts. The federal government warns against 15-passenger vans and now prohibits schools from buying them unless they meet the safety requirements of school buses. Most 15-passenger vans manufactured before 2006 do not meet these requirements. They’re not only unsafe, but they cost more to insure.
Whether your church uses vans or buses, maintain all vehicles according to the vehicle manufacturer’s guidelines. Use the same mechanic for all repairs, and perform preventative maintenance on a schedule. Document all maintenance and repairs for each vehicle and keep copies of this information in both the vehicle and your church office.
Prepare for trips
Along with maintaining vehicles, prepare your vehicles for field trips and off-campus travel.
Create a pre-trip and post-trip checklist to remind drivers of safety precautions. At a minimum, your checklist should include:
- Inspect the vehicle’s tires and treads
- Check the air pressure in the tires
- Check for fluid leaks
- Confirm that all lights work
- Make sure no dashboard warning lights are on
After a trip, drivers should report any maintenance issues to church personnel.
Have drivers read and sign a vehicle safety policy each year. The policy should address cell phone usage, obeying laws, seat belt use, and drive time on longer trips. If a trip requires more than six hours of driving, have drivers rotate shifts or take breaks along the way.
Keep emergency numbers, contact information for staff members at the church, and the vehicle’s insurance card and registration inside the vehicle. These documents should be easily accessible, and all drivers should know where they are. For each trip, make sure the church office has a list of names, phone numbers, and emergency contacts of everyone on the trip in case of delay or emergency. Placing a first aid kit in each vehicle is also a great idea.
With weather hazards and distracted drivers, driving may be one of your church’s riskiest activities. While you can’t prevent every possible accident, driving safety guidelines are a great place to start.
Remember, your mission field begins when you leave your church campus. Make sure your journey is a safe one.
You can take it from here
This article is intended to be a starting point to open dialogue about security plans for your church. Be sure to do your own research, and if appropriate, contact a professional to determine safety guidelines that suit your needs.
This is part five in the series. Please see other posts written by Amy Scott-Lundy to learn more.
About the writer
A Charleston, SC resident and technical writer for ACS Technologies, Amy’s witnessed the impact tragedies such as the Emanuel AME Church massacre have on a community. In her spare time, Amy enjoys running, art, traveling, volunteering, and spending time with family and friends.