The Scout Law reminds us: A Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent. Now think about your last road trip. Were you courteous and kind to other drivers? Obedient to traffic laws? Cheerful? The driver’s seat of a vehicle, particularly when you have a carload of Scouts with you, is the perfect time and place to practice the attributes found in the Scout Law.
Whether it’s a food drive, weekend campout or summer camp, transporting Scouts from one location to another is a part of Scouting. It is easy to see how this necessary part of Scouting might involve unrecognized risk factors such as driver fatigue, passenger disruptions, using a navigation system, or eating while driving. Maybe you are driving a large van or pulling a trailer. Many recognized or unrecognized factors can distract you as a driver and impact the way you drive.
There are liabilities involved anytime you operate a vehicle, with or without passengers. We worry about tickets, insurance rates, and accidents, not to mention serious injuries or fatalities. It is critical to do all we can to eliminate or minimize risk. Distracted driving is a major contributor to accidents. There are three basic categories of distracted driving:
- Visual – taking your eyes off the road.
- Manual – taking your hands off the steering wheel.
- Cognitive – taking your mind off what you are doing.
Think about some of the things that may take your attention away from the road. Maybe you’re driving to a campsite you haven’t been to before and you have five noisy pre-teens as your passengers. Would you send a quick text to the other adult leader who has been to the campsite many times? It may be temping. However, the most concerning thing about texting or using a cellular phone while driving, is that it combines all three types of risk. You are looking at something else, using your hands for something else, and thinking about something else.
Before your next road trip, encourage your group to pause for a “Safety Moment” and discuss rules of the road. Talk about who will be driving, and who in each vehicle could serve as a navigator or “communication specialist” if communication is needed between different vehicles. As a driver, you can put your phone in the glove box when you enter the car. Assign a passenger to monitor the navigation system or read the map. Ask the Scouts in your vehicle to keep their talking to a “mild roar” and not call or text people they know are driving. A short discussion before a road trip can do a great deal to minimize risk.
There are many resources available to help you learn more about safe driving. To get started, visit these websites:
- nhtsa.gov National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
- drowsydriving.org National Sleep Foundation
- distraction.gov Official US Government Website for Distracted Driving