Update, April 4, 2017: This story, originally posted in 2014, has been updated to reflect the BSA’s new transportation policy.
It’s sad but true: Driving to and from Scouting events is more dangerous than whatever you do once you get there.
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 Scouts to drive themselves and others to meetings, weekend campouts, unit activities, area/regional/national events and more?
The bottom line is no. If transportation is part of a planned Scouting tour or activity, the driver must be currently licensed and at least 18 years of age.
For more, 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. Here’s the explanation — which every leader with driving-age Scouts should read.
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 transportation 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. A troop overnighter is an official Scouting activity.
Bourlon points us to this Guide to Safe Scouting page, specifically point No. 3 under Automobiles, which says:
The drivers must be currently licensed and at least 18 years of age. Scouting youth (under age 18) are not insured under the Boy Scouts of America commercial general liability policy.
If he’s 18, he’s no longer a Boy Scout; he’s an adult. At 18, he then could drive himself or Scouts to an event as an assistant Scoutmaster.
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 theBoy Scouts of America 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?
“We can no longer suggest or condone youth driving as part of any official Scouting activity. Parents or chartered organizations are free to make decisions about when and where their youth can drive, but they need to know that it can’t be part of an official Scouting activity, nor is there supplemental coverage for the youth under the BSA’s General Liability Insurance Program, or Accident and Sickness programs.”
Can a Scout or under-18 Venturer drive himself or herself to and from camp for their job?
It is illegal for an employer to require a youth to drive to, from or during their employment. The government considers driving a “hazardous job” and therefore it is not permitted for those under 18.
What about Venturers? Can they drive themselves?
The above answer applies to under-18 Venturers.
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:
- Seat belts are required for all occupants.
- 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).
- The drivers must be currently licensed and at least 18 years of age. Scouting youth (under age 18) are not insured under the Boy Scouts of America commercial general liability policy.
- Trucks may not be used for transporting passengers except in the cab.
- 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, however, that coverage limits are at least $100,000 combined single limit. Any vehicle designed to carry 10 or more passengers should have limits of $1,000,000.
- Obey all laws, including the speed limit.
- Driving time is limited to a maximum of 10 hours in one 24-hour period regardless of the number of drivers available. Driving time must be interrupted by frequent rest, food, and/or recreation stops. The intention is to include sleep and thorough rest breaks while traveling long distances. Don’t drive while drowsy. Stop for rest and stretch breaks as needed. Fatigue is a major cause of highway accident fatalities.
- Drivers must refrain from using hand-held cell phones while driving. Text messaging while driving is prohibited. Hands-free units are acceptable, but must be used sparingly while driving.