How does two-deep leadership apply when driving to Scouting events?

expertlogo1The BSA’s top-notch Youth Protection training includes a number of Barriers to Abuse.

These policies, which you can review here, provide additional safety for your child and all who are involved in Scouting.

One of these policies is two-deep leadership, which says: “At minimum, two registered adult leaders, or one registered leader and a participating Scout’s parent or another adult, are required for all trips and outings. One of these adults must be 21 years of age or older.”

A well-meaning volunteer recently wrote me with a question about this policy: Does “two-deep leadership” apply to driving to and from Scouting events? In other words, are two adults required in each car?

For the answer, I asked the expert.

The question

How does two-deep leadership come into play when driving to Scouting events? Do two adults need to be in each car? Requiring two adults in each car would mean a ratio of two adults for every three youth. That seems excessive.

The expert’s answer

This comes from James S. “Jim” Wilson, the volunteer who serves as chairman of the National Youth Protection Committee.

Thanks for question on two-deep leadership and your concern for youth protection.

Two adults are not required per car when traveling to meetings or other Scouting events. That is, as long as the “no one-on-one contact” policy is followed.

So if a parent or unit leader is driving Scouts to a meeting or function, they need to make sure they are not in a one-on-one situation, unless that one youth is their own child.

It’s pretty easy to comply with this with a little forethought on the logistics of travel.

– Jim

Ask the Expert

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  1. I am so glad to see this clarified. I have seen people think they have to apply “Two Deep” in the weirdest situations. Worse, I’ve even heard it taught in YPT. E.g., “No, you can’t have only one Den Leader in a den meeting.”

      • “At minimum, two registered adult leaders, or one registered leader and a participating Scout’s parent or another adult, are required for all trips and outings. One of these adults must be 21 years of age or older.”

        A Den meeting is neither a trip nor an outing.

    • I see the two policies conflated so many times it astounding.

      I was amazed that even the YPT video had the policies backwards when one adult stopped another adult from entering a one-on-one situation. Luckily, the narrator jumped in to give the correct info.

      • Now I’m really confused. Only one den leader at a meeting is okay as long as there’s another YPT trained adult present. Right?.

    • That’s is correct. You CAN’T have only one den leader on a den meeting. Hence the rule of “two-deep leadership”. Unless, of course, you have other parents there as well. But one leader and all the scouts by themselves? Nope.

      • That is opposite what the answer says. Two Deep leadership is not the same as no one -on-one contact and apply to different things.

      • No one-on-one contact applies to every scouting activity, including meetings and outings. Two-deep leadership applies only to outings. Therefore, you CAN have one den leader at a meeting as long as you are never left alone with a boy who isn’t yours. If that den meeting is a field trip, then two leaders are required.

        • Two deep leadership applies at every function. You cannot have just one adult in a room with scouts. You must have one registered leader and an additional adult at least 18 years old in the presence of scouts.

    • I knew this already, however what is this scout “insurance” I’ve heard about? Most of the adults in my troop don’t advise me driving scouts, despite what was proved above, because I’m not covered by “scout liability insurance,” or something like that. I am a 20 year old Assistant Scoutmaster. Thanks.

      • My council’s insurance only covers persons over 21 years of age. If you get into an accident, council will not pay for it like they normally would, and your insurance would be on the hook for everything. The insurance like that is much, much cheaper for them than an 18+ insurance.

        • Please review the Guide to Safe Scouting. A Venturer/Explorer/Sea Scout may drive another Scout under certain conditions, but the driver must have held an UNRESTRICTED license for at least 6 months. Depending on state graduated driver licensing laws, this can mean age 18 in some states.

  2. I answered that same question for a new committee chair that was asked to give Scouts rides to the meeting. As long as you pick up both Scouts at the same location so that you are not alone with one Scouts you are in compliance with YPT.

    • Or if your son is one of the Scouts, you have him with you when you pick up the second Scout and until you drop off the second Scout.

    • What you mean the BSA has conflicting info on what to do … I am SHOCKED.

      As long as there is no one on one contact there is no YP problem.

      • That’s just not true – on outings 2-deep leadership IS a YP requirement (as well as common sense). It’s just not necessary to have 2 adults in each vehicle as long as there is no 1-on-1 contact. For meetings, only 1 adult is required as long as there is more than 1 scout at all times.

      • Then when would 2 deep leadership ever come into play? If they are in separate cars, you have 2 for the outing…just no one on one contact. At a meeting with only one adult, you might not have one on one contact but would not have 2 deep leadership.

        • OK…I am confused now. 2 deep only on outings and meetings we don’t care as long as you are not alone with a youth?

  3. So all that makes perfect sense when it’s short distance. What if you were taking a 3-hour drive to a campout and everyone could not leave at the same time (e.g. an hour apart). It seems to me that each “group” would need two adults in it.

    • Everyone keeps forgetting about “no one-on-one contact” portion of YPT and focuses on the Two Deep Leadership.

      As long as there is no one-on-one contact, except parents with their own children, you are fine.

      • So two deep leadership does not need to be followed as long as they are not one-on-one? I didn’t know you could pick and choose, that it was an either/or option. I always thought it was two deep leadership AND no one-to-one-one.

        • Two-Deep leadership still needs to be followed when appropriate. Two Deep and no one-on-one are two separate things, they are not an either or thing.

          Two deep requires at least two adults on “outings”.

    • This is actually a question I haven’t considered before.

      For example, most of the troop left for the outing on Friday and a few scouts wanted to join the group on Saturday.

      They wanted to be environmentally responsible and carpool.

      The “no one-on-one” policy is being followed, but two-deep is being stretched pretty thin with a single in the car and the other adults at the campsite.

      The day before, the leaders were on the road with everyone else and would be capable of addressing incidents since they had two-deep, but if something were to happen with the single driver on Saturday, the scouts could be stranded.

  4. You should not have a scout other than your son in the front seat with you. If you are transporting multiple scouts have your son in the front and the other boys in the back seat.

  5. I’m confused. You started by saying that there must be two deep leadership at all activities and outings. But apparently that doesn’t need to be followed when in a car? What happens if the car has troubles and they are stranded somewhere? Then you have one leader with several scouts. How does that comply with two-deep leadership?

      • Right. I would go further to say that regular pack/troop/crew meetings at the regular pack/troop/crew meeting location (typically, but not always, at the COR’s facility) are *not* “trips and outings”.

        However, the sentence at, which says “The den leader and assistant den leader (or another adult) attend all den meetings with the Cub Scouts. (At least two adults must be present at all meetings.)” does appear, to me, at least, to be in conflict with this general principle that “meetings” do not require 2-deep leadership. I wonder if this might be trying to address a common situation where den meetings are held at the home of the den leader versus at the COR facility.

        • Since that isn’t a policy document, I suspect it is for the sanity of the den leader. When I was the leader of a Bear den, I had absolutely no desire to be left alone with them.

          Alternatively, the person who wrote the activity guide confused the two policies.

    • What our troop does is employ “buddy cars” where you have two cars traveling together as much as safety allows. The whole group doesn’t caravan (which is forbidden in GTSS for safety reasons), but if there is any kind of stop, there are two leaders there. If there is a vehicle breakdown, there is a second car on the spot to help.

      • Could you please state the source for the following: “The whole group doesn’t caravan (which is forbidden in GTSS for safety reasons)”? I cannot find it in the GTSS.

  6. This offers an interesting thought. I would like to take this another step forward. I don’t think that 2-Deep is sufficient on an outing, or particularly an overnight trip. If you have two leaders and a youth becomes infirmed and needs to visit some medical facility then only 1 leader can go with the youth.
    Now you have issues on both sides. The adult with the child is in jeopardy. The youth remaining do not have sufficient adult supervision now as well. I would support a 4-Deep solution. This would cover most any scenario.
    This would be primarily appropriate for long-term outings.

    • No one is “in jeopardy” to cover no one on one just take the SPL/ASPL. with the adult going to the hospital. Scouts will just one adult left at the camp site, or rather should be I mean how much supervision do they really need.

    • I think this describes one of the main reasons for two-deep leadership. Once a trip to a doctor is required, it’s no longer a normal outing and your Scout Executive will understand the temporary departure from policy.

      Of course, two-deep in the minimum number. Our troop policy increases this minimum as the number of attending scouts increases.

    • I always try to have 3 adults scheduled to attend an outing. Not just because of the possibility of injury, but sometimes you need an extra car, and sometimes an adult cancels at the last minute which puts your whole trip in jeopardy.

    • While not required, I always tried to have a minimum of 4 adults on any activity. In case of an emergency, 2 adults would take the injured youth to the medical facility leaving 2 other adults with the remainder of the Scouts. Someone mentioned sending the SPL with one of the adults to the medical facility, but for Cub Scouts the oldest youth would only be 11. I would prefer the second person going to the medical facility being an adult rather than an 11-year old. But that is just my personal preference.

        • Webelos Scouts (while technically not “Cubs” but part of the Cub Scouts program) are allowed to camp without their families.
          From the Guide to Safe Scouting: A Webelos Scout may participate in overnight den camping when supervised by an adult. In most cases, the Webelos Scout will be under the supervision of his parent or guardian. It is essential that each Webelos Scout be under the supervision of a parent-approved adult.

    • This is the exact example of why 2 deep is required on outings. So one leader can stay and the other can go with the scout to the hospital. And to comply with no one on one if he is transporting the scout to the hospital he should take another scout or two with him. This is all common sense and not rocket science.

  7. Where did you get that one from?

    In my troop growing up, both pre and post YPT, the SPL, or acting SPL, would ALWAYS sit in the front seat of the SM’s vehicle so that they could talk about the trip and make any last minute plans.

    No one-on-one is the key here.

  8. Two deep leadership applies to “Outings.” You can have a meeting with only one leader present as long as there are at least two Scouts present. I have never heard that two deep leadership applies to meetings.

    • No one on one contact is what gave rise to the phrase two deep leadership. At all scout functions there is to be no one on one contact. The option to have one leader and two or more scouts is consistent with the YP training. The commentator who was concerned with taking a scout for medical care when only two leaders were in camp is only justified to be concerned if there were only three scouts and none was related to either leader. For youth protection the overarching principle is no one on one contact.

  9. This is an issue I hear discussed over and over again. I’m glad to see an “official” answer, but I don’t think it went far enough. We also have to apply a little common sense.

    I believe Mr. Wilson should have added that there must be at least one other vehicle with one leader and more than two scouts (assuming not drivers child) going to the same event. This would satisfy the two deep leadership requirement.

    Per GTSS, ” minimum of two registered adult leaders, or one registered leader and a participating Scout’s parent, or another adult are required for all trips and outings. One of these adults must be 21 years of age or older”. The obvious questions is how to define “trips and outings”. I have asked and have not been able to find an answer.

    It says two adult leaders must be on the trip or outing. It does not specify that there must be two adult leaders with every group of scouts at all times. If all the scouts are going to different places upon arrival at camp, two adults would be required for each scout. We run into this at summer camp when the scouts go off to work on their merit badges. If we have two adults attending summer camp, we have two deep leadership covered.

    One of the reasons for two deep leadership is in case of an emergency. If there are only two adults with a group of scouts, it does not make sense for everybody to go to the hospital if one scout needs to go. If there are only two adults, one should go and take an additional scout with him. This should be an older scout but not the SPL. Part of the reasoning is depending on the injury, someone may need to provide aid enroute. The remaining leader and scouts need to understand that they are now in an emergent situation. Activities may need to be modified until the other leader returns. The remaining leader may seek out the assistance of other adults and leaders from different groups if possible.

    The additional vehicle coming up on Saturday morning with only one adult is an interesting question. It should also be pointed out that “caravanning” is not allowed. Item 15 of the GUIDE TO TOUR PLANNING PRINCIPLES states, “If more than one vehicle is used to transport our group, we will establish rendezvous points at the start of each day and not attempt to have drivers closely follow the group vehicle in front of them”. I wish they would add this to the GTSS. If you have more than one leader driving to an event with two or more scouts in each vehicle, it is very possible that the two vehicles get separated. I don’t see how this is different than having a vehicles leaving at different times. The vehicle coming up on Saturday should establish a time of arrival with the group and do its best to communicate with the group. If there is a problem, the whole group should take action.

    The word “minimum” in the GTSS is the least acceptable number. It is not the recommended number. Obviously more adult participation is better than the minimum. If the number falls below the minimum the event should be cancelled. If the number is at or above the minimum, the event can proceed with the necessary caution.

    • I too have been unable to get a clear definition of trips and outings from my local council or national.

      So, we are left to use the Guide to Safe Scouting to help us interpret what an trip or outing is.

      In the Boy Scout camping section the guide says,
      “Weekend Overnights—Troops/teams that plan and carry out outings once a
      month attract and retain boys at a much higher level than those that have fewer
      outings during the year.
      Camporees—Councils and districts plan camporees and other outings during
      the year that give Scouts an opportunity to test their knowledge and skills in
      competitive events with other troops and patrols.”

      In the section on Leadership Requirements for Trips and Outings the guide says,
      “During transportation to and from planned Scout outings,
      A. Meet for departure at a designated area.
      B. Prearrange a schedule for periodic checkpoint stops as a group.
      C. Plan a daily destination point.”

      These excerpts tell me that outings are much different from a typical meeting and require additional planning ahead of time.

      The GTSS discusses a variety of trips. Take a look and see if any of them apply to your activity.

      • Didn’t think it was so hard to define trips and outings. Just use common sense and don’t over analyze. A trip or outing is ANY event that does NOT take place at your regular meeting place.

    • My litmus test for “trips and outings” is overnight activities.
      This leaves room for two patrols coming from the opposite sides of town to a common destination … one driver transporting each for the “day” part, and the drivers staying to chaperon for the evening.

  10. As for two deep leadership at meetings, it is not required. That being said, a leader may specify that they want to have a second adult at the meeting for their own sanity. Think Tiger Cub Den Leader.

    • At Tiger meetings, there should be 1 parent/guardian for each Tiger Cub at the event. Tiger Cubs is a Scout/Parent activity. For other Cub levels, then the sanity part makes sense.

  11. Gotcha. So, while in the car on the way to trips or outings, one leader in the car is fine. But once they get to their destination, there needs to be a second leader there, in order to be two deep. But in regular meetings, it is okay to have just one leader, as long as they are not alone with just one scout. Correct?

  12. Not quite. One leader requires multiple scouts. One scout requires at least two adult leaders present regardless of activity unless the one scout is the son of the one adult.

      • DDR: How can this be wrong?? One scout, not the adult’s son (as stipulated in Thomas Fritz’s post) with a single adult would violate the “one-on-one” rule!! So how can one scout NOT require 2 (or more) adults?? Please help me understand your statement!!

    • The best reason for 2 adults at a Cub meeting is what if one of the Cub Scouts gets injured & has to go to a medical facility. The adult can take the injured Scout & another Scout to the emergency room, but what about the other 8 Scouts back at the meeting place? They all can’t fit into the Den Leader’s car. I guess they could just call 911 & have the ambulance pick up the Scout at the Den Meeting.

  13. As a note, if you are an LDS chartered troop/pack the requirement in the Scouting Handbook states that Two Deep Leadership is required for all trips, outings, classes and meetings (section 8.7).

  14. The 2011 printing of the GTSS hints at the answer to the “what if you have to take a Scout to the hospital” question, in the “safety rule of four”. It says that the minimum backcountry party size is four, so that if one is injured, one person can stay with the injured person while two others go for help. Since it would seem undesirable to leave an injured Scout without an adult, and undesirable to send both Scouts for help if an adult is injured, it seems sensible that the rule takes second priority to the needs of the emergency.

    The safety rule of four does not appear in the current GTSS. One hopes that that’s an accident.

    • Why couldn’t you send two scouts for help? Gotta remember, up until 2012 or thereabouts, patrols could camp on their own without ANY adults with SM’s and parents’ permission.

      William “Green Bar Bill” Hillcourt said it best: “Train ’em. Trust ’em. LET THEM LEAD!” (sic)

      Any Scout with First Aid MB should be able to handle first aid situations, as “the badge represents what the Scout can do, not what he has done.”

    • The safety rule of four is still in the 2015 GTSS.

      It can be found on page 8 under Leadership Requirements for Trips and Outings.
      “Safety rule of four: No fewer than four individuals (always with the
      minimum of two adults) go on any backcountry expedition or campout.
      If an accident occurs, one person stays with the injured, and two go for
      help. Additional adult leadership requirements must reflect an awareness of
      such factors as size and skill level of the group, anticipated environmental
      conditions, and overall degree of challenge.”

      It is important to remember that heath and safety take priority over following BSA policies written for the safety and well-being of its members.

  15. So I have been in situations where I take a youth aside to talk with them – one just yesterday as his mother passed away where I am consoling the Scout. However, the doors are open.

    I do ask folks to be reasonable with their interruptions when speaking on sensitive subjects that come up such as deaths and divorces. The Scout’s home lives are nobody’s business – and it is possible to have adults who are news bullhorns spreading it so it gets to the other Scouts.

    The open door policy allows us to be viewed from afar, but the privacy of the issue is kept in tact. And that is what is important, especially at times such as this for our youth.

  16. This is a great topic and discussion board. But, here’s a question on the “Adult” statements. If it states that an adult is 21 or over, how can you have a 2 deep YPT when the Assistant Scoutmaster is anywhere in the age range 18-20. I bet alot of units consider there ASM’s as adults. I’m involved with a Venture Crew also. They are considered youths till the age of 21 and as in the OA.
    Also, if an ASM drives 3 youths to camp, council insurance will not cover them. Would this be the same if a Venturer drove 3 members to an event.

    Just looking for a clarification.

    • The Guide to Safe Scouting is written in very clear language on this. You only need 2 adults for an “outing” (overnighter). One of those adults must be 21+, the other must be 18+. One must be a registered Scouter, either one. For any other kind of Boy Scout thing (meeting, PLC, day trip) there is no leadership requirement, but if there is an adult present, he may not be alone with any one scout (no one-on-one contact)—so, if an adult is around, he can be with as few as 2 scouts at once, or with a second adult and 1 scout. But never one scout and one adult, regardless of what sort of activity is happening. A patrol may do a day trip with no physical adult presence, adult leadership is the training they have received to be mature enough to go out on their own. But a patrol may not do an overnighter without an adult presence, which would require 2 adults.

  17. We often forget that the GTSS “rule of two” also allows for two Scouts to accompany one adult. The prime directive is still “no one-on-one.”

  18. How would you interpret the rules for 2 scouts from one troop going to a council camp. Could one adult from the troop drive 3 hours with both scouts, then be the only adult from that troop with them during the weekend assuming they would be in a crew with 10 other scouts and at least a couple other parents/leaders plus staff? Does the two deep leadership have to be adults the scouts know and are from the same troop?

    • Kim, Look at provisional troops at a summer camp… One scout from a troop can be in camp with a group (2+) of leaders from maybe 2+ other troops and still fulfill the 2 deep leadership, so your question; with 2 scouts & 1 leader from the same troop; could therefore travel to camp as long as the “unit in camp” has at least 2 leaders (regardless of their troop affiliation). Although if the travel will be longer than 1 day, then you’re stretching the envelope…

  19. Hello all,

    Concerning two deep leadership and camporee’s, is it required to have adult leaders in the same tents? so if you have 3 adults (leaders and parent) are they all required to stay in the same tent? What if one of the 3 is female, she would need to stay in her own tent but is that allowed in the two deep? does two deep even apply to tenting accommodations?

  20. Can the Scoutmaster drive alone with a 16 year old scout in a convoy of multiple cars with the parent being in another car in the convoy?

  21. Okay, here is a different question for you. If i am the only leader available to take a scout to an activity and the scout is my nephew, do i still need another leader to be able to transport him?

    • As a leader, this would probably violate the no 1-on-1 policy, but as an uncle, with the parent’s permission, it “would be allowed”. SO, the interpretation of this situation, STRICTLY as a youth protection issue would be; NO, but MAY be able to be bent due to the relationship… This situation would most definitely be a “grey” area…

    • That’s unfortunate but not necessarily a problem. Folks seem to be getting confused between ‘two deep’ leadership at events and ‘no one-on-one’ contact. If there’s only one leader for a den and several cubscouts who all remain within the same room there’s no problem. It’s also OK if another adult (parent, family member, guardian or spouse of the leader), is present in the same room during the meeting. In these cases there’s no issue with the ‘no one-on-one’ rule. It helps if the adults have taken the Youth Protection online training course but that’s not essential as the leader must have taken it.

      For Tiger dens a parent, adult family member or legal guardian must be present at the den meeting if possible.

      People seem to be getting confused between ‘Leader’ and ‘leadership’. They aren’t necessarily the same. All adults are assumed to be providing leadership but only a few are designated scouting leaders (den leader, cubmaster, scoutmaster, assistant scoutmaster).

      Den meetings doesn’t require two designated BSA leaders either. The situation is the same on an outing so long as there’s another adult who is ‘Trained’ accompanying the outing. That person doesn’t have to assume a leadership position per se although it would be great if they did.

      In both our troop and pack we insist that at least one adult family member or legal guardian of every cubscout or scout takes the online ‘Youth Protection’ course and maintains the certification while that child is a member. So far we’ve had no refusers when it’s explained. We’ve also found it’s a good way to get parents involved without giving them specific titles, roles or uniforms. Often they then take the next step and volunteer for more roles.

    • Again, look toward a summer camp. While the scouts are doing their classes, it would be nearly impossible to have 2 “leaders” at each class. but if the 2+ leaders are in their campsite or at a “known” location in the camp, 2 deep leadership is considered fulfilled.

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