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Ask the Expert: Can Scouts, Venturers drive themselves to/from events?

Ask the Expert: What happened to Bugling merit badge?File this one under “sad but true”: Getting to and from Scouting events is by far more dangerous than participating in the program.

That’s why the Boy Scouts of America’s Guide to Safe Scouting offers specific guidelines to help adults transport Scouts safely.

But what about older Scouts and Venturers with driver’s licenses? Is it OK for them to drive themselves and others to meetings, weekend campouts, unit activities, area/regional/national events and more?

That’s what Scouter Matt from Eureka, Kan., wondered in an email to me last week. He writes:

I would like some clarification on Scout’s (youth) driving to and from events. The Guide to Safe Scouting seems to indicate that Scouts can drive themselves to regular troop meetings, but otherwise I’m not clear on any answers:

Can a Boy Scout drive to a troop overnighter?
Can a Boy Scout drive other Scouts to a troop overnighter?
Can a Boy Scout transport troop equipment?

I checked with Richard Bourlon, the BSA’s Health and Safety team leader, and Mark Dama, head of Insurance and Risk Management, for the answer. Find the explanation — which every leader with driving-age Scouts should read — after the jump.

Driving to/from troop or crew meetings

This one qualifies as “not applicable.”

That’s because, as Bourlon says, “Driving to or from a standard meeting place isn’t an official Scouting activity or part of any tour planning.”

Adds Dama, “It’s similar to you going to work and coming home from work. You are not considered an employee at both of those times.”

So, as always, these teens should practice safe driving habits but are neither prohibited from nor required to drive to and from unit meetings.

Can a Boy Scout drive to a troop overnighter?

No. Bourlon points us to this Guide to Safe Scouting page, specifically point No. 3 under Automobiles, which says:

The driver must be currently licensed and at least 18 years of age.

If he’s 18, he’s not a Boy Scout, and so this rule is quite clear. Exceptions for youth Boy Scouts include traveling to and from an area, regional or national Boy Scout activity. More on that later.

Can a Boy Scout drive other Scouts to a troop overnighter?

No. See above explanation.

Can a Boy Scout transport troop equipment?

No. Same reasoning, Dama writes:

“If they did, the troop equipment belongs to the chartered organization, which probably wouldn’t want a youth driving gear around. Do the mom and dad of the son have an appropriate level of automobile liability insurance coverage if their son has an accident and there are other youth in his vehicle? Scouting youth (under age 18) are not insured under the BSA Commercial General Liability policy.”

That last sentence is a direct quote from the Guide to Safe Scouting, and it explains why this rule exists.

Can a Boy Scout drive himself to/from an area, regional or national event?

Yes, assuming he’s at least 16 years old and has:

  • Six months’ driving experience as a licensed driver (time on a learner’s permit or equivalent is not to be counted)
  • No record of accidents or moving violations
  • Parental permission granted to the leader, driver, and riders

That’s right from the Guide to Safe Scouting as well.

What about Venturers? Can they drive themselves?

Yes, a Venturer can drive himself/herself to any Venturing event as long as the event is under the leadership of an adult (at least 21 years of age), the Venturer is at least 16 years old and he or she has:

  • Six months’ driving experience as a licensed driver (time on a learner’s permit or equivalent is not to be counted)
  • No record of accidents or moving violations
  • Parental permission granted to the leader, driver, and riders
Why is this policy in place?

Motor vehicle accidents are one of the most frequent severe incidents we see in Scouting,” Bourlon says. “Going to and from events is far more dangerous than our program. We have resources such as the Risk Zone training that Scouters should review.” (Find that PDF here.)

More general driving guidelines

From the Guide to Safe Scouting:

1.     Seat belts are required for all occupants.

2.     All drivers must have a valid driver’s license that has not been suspended or revoked for any reason. If the vehicle to be used is designed to carry more than 15 people, including the driver (more than 10 people, including the driver, in California), the driver must have a commercial driver’s license (CDL).

3.     The driver must be currently licensed and at least 18 years of age. Youth member exception: when traveling to and from an area, regional, or national Boy Scout activity or any Venturing event under the leadership of an adult (at least 21 years of age) tour leader, a youth member at least 16 years of age may be a driver, subject to the following:

1.     Six months’ driving experience as a licensed driver (time on a learner’s permit or equivalent is not to be counted)

2.     No record of accidents or moving violations

3.     Parental permission granted to the leader, driver, and riders

4.     Trucks may not be used for transporting passengers except in the cab.

5.     All vehicles must be covered by automobile liability insurance with limits that meet or exceed requirements of the state in which the vehicle is licensed. It is recommended that coverage limits are at least $50,000/$100,000/$50,000. Any vehicle designed to carry 10 or more passengers is required to have limits of $100,000/$500,000/$100,000.

6.     Obey all laws, including the speed limit.

7.     Driving time is limited to a maximum of 10 hours and must be interrupted by frequent rest, food, and recreation stops. If there is only one driver, the driving time should be reduced and stops should be made more frequently.

8.     Travel and rest time is limited to a maximum of 10 hours in one 24-hour period, regardless of the number of drivers available. The intention is to include sleep and thorough rest breaks while traveling long distances.

9.     Drivers should refrain from using cell phones (including hands-free units) and text-messaging devices while driving.

The commercial general liability policy is excess over any insurance which may be available to a volunteer for loss arising from ownership, maintenance, or use of a motor vehicle while engaged is an Official Scouting Activity. Scouting youth (under age 18) are not insured under the Boy Scouts of America commercial general liability policy.

Don’t drive drowsy. Stop for rest and stretch breaks as needed. Fatigue is a major cause of highway accident fatalities.


Photo from Flickr: Some rights reserved by Ross Mayfield

54 thoughts on “Ask the Expert: Can Scouts, Venturers drive themselves to/from events?

  1. Does anyone know if the “commercial general liability policy” covers troop trailers & equipment? What defines an Official Scouting Activity – having a tour plan filed??? What’s covered by the policy? I’ve asked my Council these questions and can’t get a response.

  2. I must not be understanding this correctly, because it seems arbitrary and inconsistent that:
    1. a 16-year-old Boy Scout cannot drive himself to a troop overnighter that is 20 minutes up the road, but he can drive himself to a National event that is eight hours away (provided that he has six months’ driving experience as a licensed driver, no record of accidents or moving violations, and parental permission granted to the leader, driver, and riders), and
    2. a 16-year-old Boy Scout cannot drive himself to a troop overnighter, but a 16-year-old Venturer can drive himself/herself to a crew overnighter (provided that he has six months’ driving experience as a licensed driver, no record of accidents or moving violations, and parental permission granted to the leader, driver, and riders).
    Can anyone clear this up?

    • This policy may have changed or misquoted. The rules for National events is in my rules for Venturers only. Seems someone extended the policy to Boy Scouts inadvertently.

      • Shouldn’t the answer to Michelle’s question be “yes”? The article above says a Boy Scout can drive to troop meetings since traveling to and from meetings is like driving to work and is not considered part of the scouting activity. Then, doesn’t that same notion apply to an event/activity that only lasts for a couple of hours, say a service project for example? If a couple of 17 year old Boy Scouts are driving to a local service project event, are you saying they can’t ride together?

        • Also, by that logic youth protection (two-deep) wouldn’t apply driving to and from a Troop Meeting. So are we saying we don’t need two-deep in such an instance or are we saying the above article is wrong when it comes to people driving themselves to and from a troop meeting. Which is it?

  3. I agree with Joe’s #2 — a 16yo Venture Scout shouldn’t be able to do something that a 16yo Boy Scout can’t. This is the same inconsistency that we have with activities like Pistol shooting (which Jamboree kids could do).
    One of the tables that Bryan recently shared showed younger-Boy Scout activities and then “older Boy Scout and Venturing” activities as a column, which I believe was 14+.

    Perhaps BSA’s safety folks need an additional column for 16+, where the same rules can be applied to Boy Scouts and Venture Scouts.

  4. Please clarify the statement about 16 year of drivers driving others (in the section quoted from G2SS). That statement used to only apply to Venturers. Has that now changed? In fact in this blog you have Venturers only and in another spot, you have both Boy Scouts and Venturers able to drive others at age 16.

    According to the guide to safe scouting, Venturers CAN drive themselves AND others to events. There are restrictions, but it is allowed. It’s in there partially as a way to allow Venturers to participate in things such as road rallies.

    This statement though is somewhat undermined by the statement of needing to be 18 to be covered by the BSA liability coverage. I would like to see that changed or at least these two ages rectified.

    This blog is quite confusing and contradicts itself. Largely because the rules between Boy Scouts and Venturers ARE different in this instance. In general, Boy Scouts requires 18 years, Venturing requires 16 with restrictions.

  5. In South Dakota our kids get Driver’s Licenses at age 14, many are driving to and from work and school and sports events regularily long before they are 16. I don’t know how you would stop them from driving to an event, do you stand out in the parking lot and watch if they drove or their parent did?

  6. Bryan,
    Both Jason and Joe brought up the same thing I was thinking. I mean a 16 year old Boy Scout can’t drive but a 16 year old Venturer can? A 16 year old Boy Scout cannot drive to a Troop camping weekend but could drive to say Jamboree?

    Who can we go to for the reasoning behind this? Those gentlemen you referenced? If so please give contact information if possible.

    Thanks

  7. I think the answer to this is “no”, but please confirm. May a 16 year old Boy Scout licensed driver drive other Boy Scouts at summer camp on “staff night out” to take them to a movie, pizza, etc. Thanks !

    • Lisa, the key distinction in my interpretation is what’s considered an official Scout activity and what isn’t. One way to tell is whether you’re submitting a tour plan (and therefore getting BSA insurance). Troop meetings aren’t included, and so it would be up to the parents (and perhaps the chartered organization) to make that call. See Dama’s explanation in the post above stating that we aren’t covered when we drive to and from work.

      It’s an insurance thing, and it’s about making sure you’re protected and not held liable.

      If I get hurt doing my job at the office (blogging can be dangerous), then I’m covered. But if I get hurt driving to or from work (even with coworkers in the car), I’m not. That’s how I see the distinction.

      • Your premises of when you need a Tour Plan is faulty.
        I know that it is always good to do a tour plan when going on an outing, But when BSA went from Tour Permits to Tour Plans, the rules on when you needed them changed.
        Times when a tour and activity plan must be submitted for council review include the following:
        • Trips of 500 miles or more; or
        • Trips outside of council borders (exception: not to your council-owned property); or
        • Trips to Florida Sea Base, Northern Tier, Philmont Scout Ranch, Summit Bechtel Reserve (you will be asked to present a copy of your tour and activity plan upon arrival), national Scout jamboree, National Order of the Arrow Conference, or a regionally sponsored event; or
        • When conducting any of the following activities outside of council or district events:
        o Aquatics activities (swimming, boating, floating, scuba, etc.)
        o Climbing and rappelling
        o Orientation flights (process flying plan)
        o Shooting sports
        o Any activities involving motorized vehicles as part of the program (snowmobiles, boating, etc.); or
        • At a council’s request (Contact your local council for additional guidelines or regulations concerning tour and activity plans; many have set guidelines for events or activities within council boundaries such as for Cub Scout overnight camping.)
        My Council covers half the state – that leaves a lot of places a Troop can go camping without being required to fill out a Tour Plan.

  8. This is both important and not necessary. Any organization can set whatever reuirements/qualifications it wants. I think I remember my own church youth group (No, I will not do the math) said absolutely no one under age 17 can drive for any trip for the group. Back then, I had a “chauffers” license at age 16 and got paid to drive a truck, but times have changed.
    Seethe Maryland MVA website about “Rookie Drivers” http://www.mva.maryland.gov/Driver-Services/Rookie-Driver/bgeneralprovisional.html and read the 6th bullet down under “Requirements”. The 16 year old driver by law must have an adult in the car supervising his/her practice and cannot have any one under age of 18 in the car with him save family members.
    The BSA guidelines (rules? Requirements? ) can be seen as unnecessary, in light of the MD law, but then, BSA never said they were above the law, and the G2SS is heavy duty common sense, yes?

    • Good point James. For a while we had a number of the youth chomping the bit to drive, but were very concerned about their lack of discipline. Plus, our CO’s lot was right off of a busy intersection. So, we insisted that no scout (or venturer under 18) could drive a buddy to/from meetings without their parents clearing it with us first.

      Also, when boys ask me about this stuff, I just hand them the G2SS. It saves a lot of discussion. (MANY 17 year-olds have already driven in one accident!)

  9. How about those in the
    “Order of the Arrow” who have licenses they travel to troop meetings, and LEC’s together not always with an adult. They may also show up together at a Camporee, because of work or other obligations, I’m just happy that they are able to show up. With the way today’s households are made up it can be hard to get rides from parents who aren’t working odd jobs, on weekends or taking their other children to a sports competition.

  10. Oh, I forgot to say that , of course, some other jurisdictions might not be as strict as Maryland, so BSA trying to be consistant across the board does make sense.

  11. Are Venturing youth over age 18 but under 21 insured under the Boy Scouts of America commercial general liability policy?

  12. Not really on the original topic, but needing clarification:

    What is BSA’s policy regarding wearing Class A uniforms during the travel times TO and FROM an event? I had heard that while in transit, the Scouts and Adult Leaders need to be in Class A’s, in order to meet the insurance requirements for group travel. This is different from the motor vehicle insurance carried by individual drivers, but part of the group insurance coverage we and pay for (at the council level) on a yearly basis.

    The story I heard, is that there was a troop (somewhere) going to an event. An accident occurred, and the only Scout who was injured was dressed in street clothes, not Class A uniform. Since he wasn’t in uniform, it could not be proved he was traveling to the event with the troop, and therefore wasn’t under the group insurance coverage. Yes, I know there are other ways to prove he is or isn’t in the troop, but the loophole allowed the local council not to use the insurance coverage.

    The result is that for the last several years, our troop has required that all youth and leaders dress in Class A uniforms during travel. This was a topic of discussion at last night’s meeting, and I believe it needs clarification.

    Peace

    • I was told at our roundtable that it wasn’t a requirement, but I’d like to hear an answer from someone truly familiar with the insurance rules.

    • Matt, this is an old wives’ tale. There is not and never has been any regulation about dressing for travel as it relates to insurance. The story you heard is bunk. It would be completely ridiculous… full uniform? What if he isn’t in BSA socks, or his insignia is wrong? No insurance company would pay attention to any such thing.

  13. What about Scouts under age 18 that drive wanting to transport younger Scouts to help with their Eagle Work Project? I have one that wishes to do this, and thinking that a simple parental waiver of liability releases them from any and all liability should that Scout driving get into an accident.

    • Anyone in the insurance business, or an attorney, will tell you that a waiver of liability won’t hold up in court and the only real benefit is if it convinces the injured party that they can’t sue you, but if they ask someone in the business, they will quickly over ride that waiver. Best to carry really good personal liability insurance (and an umbrella) regardless of what the BSA covers.

  14. Well… Im just 16 years old but i think both organization should offer a BSA safe driving training for those teens who want to drive to their troop activities.
    Maybe im not seeing what you ( adults ) guys are seeing that you dont want teens driving around BSA activities but I personally think it would be a good idea.

    • Ricardo,

      I don’t think the BSA has the expertise to offer a meaningful safe driving course for youth. Driving and insurance associations are better suited for this specialty.

      As for adults not wanting youth to drive to events, it is based on accident statistics, not on a dislike of youth drivers or a disrespect for our scouts. New drivers, and new young drivers in particular, have much higher accident rates than almost any other identifiable group of drivers. In order to limit the BSA’s liability and keep its insurance rates reasonable they have put these provisions into the Guide to Safe Scouting. Many of the entries in the Guide are driven by liability concerns and insurance coverage. Those also happen to be things that carry a greater risk of injury or death, so it’s not just bean counting, but is consistent with keeping youth safe while encouraging a fun program.

      The BSA isn’t the only place the higher youth accident rates come in to play. Car rental companies won’t rent to someone below a certain age, and apply higher rental and insurance rates for drivers as old as 24. Car insurance companies have higher rates for young drivers, and your best bet for affordable coverage is by being added to a parent’s policy. The insurance companies have a very good pulse on the risks and costs of different drivers, and they price it into their coverage. They use mitigating factors like good performance at school, safe driver training and other discounts for youth that are in groups that have historically less accident risk. You also see state legislatures applying restrictions to young drivers, such as daytime-only driving, or limiting the number of teen passengers. Again, these are based on risk factors rather than us old fogeys not trusting you.

  15. I think, according to G2SS:
    “The driver must be currently licensed and at least 18 years of age. Youth member exception: when traveling to and from an area, regional, or national Boy Scout activity or any Venturing event under the leadership of an adult (at least 21 years of age) tour leader, a youth member at least 16 years of age may be a driver, subject to the following: ”

    The G2SS clearly states “Youth member exception.” This means that the youth must be a “member,” which indicates a member of the BSA, whether Boy Scout or Venture Crew Member or Varsity Team Member or Explorer. This excludes non-BSA youth. So, according to G2SS it is ok to for MEMBERS to drive to Boy Scout event, which would include overnighters. What this specifically does not allow, for example, my 16 year old daughter who is a licensed driver (but not a member of a Venture Crew, nor Explorer Post and thus not a “member”), cannot take my 13 year old Boy Scout son to a BSA event. So, this thing about “Venture can, but Boy Scout can’t” is clearly wrong, according to the G2SS. The insurance statement makes no distinction on age, but clearly states member. The G2SS is not law (it is a guide, meant to steer you if you are lost), the insurance statement is a policy and must be adhered to or there could be no coverage. Please understand that the G2SS contains guidelines for safe scouting, it is not laws nor rules of the BSA.

    That being said, the Troop/Crew and/or the Chartered Organization can have their own rules, which must be followed. For example, if the Troop/Crew or CO doesn’t allow drivers under the age of 21 to drive to a scout event, then that must be adhered to, regardless of the G2SS “allowing” (again G2SS is NOT LAW)18 year olds to drive.

    Although my State’s laws have changed, licensed drivers must be 16 years of age, learners permit at 15 years, 10 months, however, when I got my license it was 15 years of age and learner’s permit at 14 years, 10 months. I got my license on my 15th birthday (present from parents, for being on honor roll at school). Troop said I had to be 16 (CO didn’t have any rules), Troop rules. So, for the first year of my license, I could not drive to scouting events which are hikes and overnight camps. Meetings, were an exception, I was allowed to drive to and from them. Was anyone checking? No. A Scout is Trustworthy … A Scout is Obedient.

    • Think you are misreading this, slightly:

      Youth member exception: when traveling to and from an area, regional, or national Boy Scout activity or any Venturing event under the leadership of an adult (at least 21 years of age) tour leader.

      You are right, it doesn’t matter which membership they have, but which event they are going to. Regular Boy Scout event, no, Venturing event, yes.

      Why the exception for Area, Region, National events…I’ll never know. But regular weekend for Boy Scouts, nope.

  16. Sorry, regarding insurance I said “member”, but the insurance statement says “registered”. My son’s Troop, where I am COR, all drivers are registered and must take the YPT and present printed (3 copies – for what reason I’m not clear) of the certificate (Troop rules). So, we have a huge membership, but drivers are easy to come by since we have just over 50 boys (11 more to be added with Webelos graduating), but we also have 16 ASMs (waiting on acceptance of registration of 2 more), 10 Committee members, including the Chair, plus me the COR. 23 merit badge counselors (parents of boys in the Troop), so we already have a pool of 40+ potential drivers, that are registered since we have a Troop policy that at least one parent/guardian of each scout must participate in a number of selected postions. The SPL (an Eagle Scout) is allowed to drive himself to camp; the ASPLs are allowed to drive themselves. One thing we don’t have is JASM. My Troop, where I earned my Eagle, not the Troop my son is in, I am an ASM, and we allow any Boy Scout who is licensed to drive, to drive to activities (mainly because school activities may coincide with Troop activities and thus may need to arrive later).

    • ManoaHi,

      Actually OA is open to all members of the BSA, irregardless of whether they are involved on the troop, team, crew, or, in the case of adults, pack levels. So male Venturers who went through the Ordeal as youth in a Boy Scout troop can still remain active.

    • This depends on how much you want to follow the G2SS, remember it is not the law and you aren’t required to follow it to the letter. If the youth in question is dual registered, then for that Boy Scout activity, he is a Boy Scout. When there is a Venture Crew event, he is a Crew Member. If there are joint events (this would be good in sustaining the Crew, so Scouts can see what Venturing has to offer) So, even within the G2SS, if he is 16 and has had his drivers license for at least 6 months, he can drive.

      Yeah, OA does throw a spanner in the works, since it is not necessarily a single Troop to make up the Lodge. But I would suspect that if a Scout (OA is only for the Boy Scouts) is 16 and had his drivers license for at least 6 months, the G2SS covers the Lodge as well. Each OA Chapter and Lodges have their own Journey to Excellence standards and should be covered the same as a Troop,Team, or Crew so Lodge would be in that list as well. I haven’t seen anything, regarding driving, that makes OA any different. But it makes this blurry. Anyone have any insights?

      • Think you are misreading this, slightly:

        Youth member exception: when traveling to and from an area, regional, or national Boy Scout activity or any Venturing event under the leadership of an adult (at least 21 years of age) tour leader.

        Basically, it matters not which memberships they have, but which event they are going to. Regular Boy Scout event, no, Venturing event, yes.

        Why the exception for Area, Region, National events…I’ll never know. But regular weekend for Boy Scouts, nope.

        And by the way, OA events, as basically a Boy Scout activity, unless its a Section/Region/National event, would not be allowed. They are Council/District Boy Scout Activities.

  17. Since there are so many questions, is there any concern that maybe the policy needs to be written so that it is clear? Some of the answers in this write up contradict interpretations given to us by our DE. We want to keep the scouts safe but need a lawyer to interpret the policy.

  18. One area not covered is driving to Eagle Scout Service Projects. Often the Scout leading the project is a licensed driver but by definition is under 18. Also other Scouts working on the project may be licensed drivers. Such projects aren’t regular Troop meetings and may be miles away from the regular Troop meeting site. Is any Scout with a driver license allowed to drive himself (solo) to an Eagle Service Project work site?

    • I would consider an Eagle service project a personal activity. In other words, although it appears to be scout activity, it is not necessarily one. I mean that, not everyone is a scouter, who help out with the Eagle project. For example, we don’t have any fathers or mothers who are electricians. If we need electrical work done, we need to get an electrician, who may not be involved with scouting. Its the same thing if you went with a bunch of friends to the pool, it is a personal event.

  19. The “youth exception” only applies to area, regional, or national events. By definition, a Troop overnighter does NOT fit those exceptions. Area and regional are defined in Scouting in certain ways. A troop overnighter does not fit. The liability insurance covers persons being recruited as well as registered members, youth and adult. I firmly believe this canard refuses to die because some like to be in control of others. Our council supplies medical accident insurance to registered members, youth and adult. We pay it at recharter; 75 cents for the year.

    Requiring the uniform for insurance is ludicrous since nowhere is a uniform required in order to be registered.

  20. Thank you , Scouter Schmidt, for addressing this before I got up this morning :-) Since the Uniform is NOT a requirement for membership in the BSA, only one of the “methods”, a Scout is a Scout if the unit says so. And any one who is a “guest” on an activity, (prospective Webelos, little brother) must also be “covered”. The Scout insurance is secondary to ones personal insurance, or for that matter, the CO’s liability, anyway, and only kicks in after everything else has been applied. Yeah, lotsa finger pointing happens when there is more than one policy that can be applied.
    And what is a uniform, anyway? Full blown blingy “class A Field Uni”? Activity red shirt? Camp Whajamacallitt tshirt and jeans? Red Jacshirt? Philmont hoodie? BSA Lifeguard trunks and muscle shirt?

  21. Reblogged this on BSA Troop 45 and commented:
    More of our youth are earning their driver’s licenses. Here are some important guidelines regarding when they can drive in relation to scouting events. There is also some useful information for adults, too.

  22. Here’s something that can slip through the cracks, even with adult drivers: driving after late night events, like certain types of Order of the Arrow activities. Although it is common sense, drivers of any age should be reminded to ensure that they are adequately rested before getting behind the wheel.

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