Students on the Move: Parent Transportation

Some Christian schools and day cares rely on parent volunteer transportation to help enrich students’ lives through field trips, sports events, and after-school activities. But volunteer drivers using personal vehicles to transport small groups of students expose your school to numerous liability risks.

A well-designed transportation and supervision plan demonstrates your school’s commitment to safety, builds trust, and protects your students on the move. These steps will help you diminish the risks to improve safety and reduce liability. 

Driver Info and Vehicle Readiness

Require a volunteer driver form.
This form states the volunteer’s responsibilities and insurance requirements and provides your school with the volunteer’s 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 phone list that includes each driver, the group leader, teacher, or a school principal or administrator. Supply all adults involved in the trip with this list.

Consider non-owned vehicle insurance.
This coverage offers financial protection for the school if it were to be named in a lawsuit involving the personal vehicle of a volunteer or a vehicle rented on behalf of the school.

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

Prohibit distracted driving.
Your policy should make clear that parent volunteers using the phone to text or talk (including hands-free options) while driving is strictly prohibited. It’s more than a safety issue: drivers can set a good example to the youth in their vehicle that they take the issue seriously. If there is not another adult in the vehicle, 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. Your school’s procedures need to be explicit: No adult volunteer should be alone with a child or youth. This includes in a vehicle, at a camp, on a mission trip, or during an overnight shut-in.

  • 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 adult volunteers 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 volunteer. 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 volunteer 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, your state may regulate children-to-adult ratios.

  • Order matters. If a parent volunteer is picking up children from, or dropping off to, different locations, the first child in the car should belong to the volunteer. For dropping off children, the reverse is true—the last child in the vehicle should belong to the volunteer.

Additional Resources from the Safety Library

Posted 2019. Updated 2023.
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.