Incidents, Accidents, and Collisions
Sponsoring Organizations should have detailed procedures for volunteers to follow in the event of incidents, accidents, and collisions. These will help minimize claims filed against the Sponsoring Organization and will provide the driver with clear directions about what the volunteer driver should do in these types of emergency situations. This section provides guidance on the types of policies and procedures that a Sponsoring Organization should implement.
Volunteer drivers should use Incident Reports to document rider/driver accidents or any unusual occurrences (other than vehicle collisions). [Form 31: Incident Report]
These might include:
- Interactions with doctors and nurses
- Gatekeeper information
- Rider complaints
In the event of an automobile collision, it is especially important that a Sponsoring Organization provide volunteer drivers with clear instructions on the procedures to follow.
Sponsoring Organizations are encouraged to prepare accident kits for all drivers. A kit should be kept in all vehicles owned by the Sponsoring Organization and should be provided to volunteer drivers operating POV's. Volunteers should be instructed to follow the procedures contained in the accident kit.
Typically these kits include:
- Witnesses cards
- Measurement tool
- Pen or pencil
- Form to diagram accident
- Emergency numbers and procedures
Procedures and Record Keeping
- Complete and accurate records of any collision or claim of collision, no matter how slight, must be kept in a permanent file. "Permanent" refers to "as long as is required by law." Drivers should not admit fault to anyone other than the manager or police.
- Any claim of bodily injury or property damage must be reported to the manager immediately. Collision reports must be completed by the driver of the vehicle and reviewed by the Manager within 24 hours.
- All collisions, no matter how slight, should be reported to the Sponsoring Organization, and a collision report submitted. However, in the event of a serious collision, the volunteer driver should contact the Sponsoring Organization immediately. A serious collision involves severe property damage, personal injury or the potential for media involvement. [Form 32: Collision Report]
The Collision Scene
- In the rare case that a serious or disabling collision occurs, ideally the Manager, or designated representative, should immediately go to the scene of the collision to provide support and information. It is the responsibility of the Manager to represent the program at the collision scene in a way that avoids any further liability. The Manager should bring a camera to the scene to assist with the review process.
- Sponsoring Organizations may want to issue a plastic placard, to the volunteer, to hang on the rear view mirror. The card should state: "I am a volunteer driver for the Sponsoring Organization. In case of an accident notify the Sponsoring Organization by calling: (Phone #)." If law enforcement authorities can access the Sponsoring Organization's two-way communication system, that information should be included on the placard.
- Because drivers can be injured or become distraught at the scene of a collision, collision procedures and guidelines should be an important part of orientation training for new drivers.
- It is important that the driver document who was in his/her vehicle and any vehicle that was involved in the collision. This can be done with a disposable camera which is part of the vehicle's emergency equipment.
Procedures for Managers at the Scene of a Collision
Collisions of any type can be an upsetting situation for the driver. A distraught or injured driver can increase liability for the program by what he/she says at the collision scene. For example, when a driver tells riders or bystanders, "I'm so sorry, it's my fault," the potential for claims made against the program will dramatically increase. The program should pay claim expenses it is responsible for, but it should not pay additional expenses because of erroneous statements made at the scene of the collision.
Managers should consider the following factors when called to the scene of an accident:
- Assure that riders are accounted for and are receiving proper emergency services.
- Separate the driver from the collision scene.
- Speak for the program and the driver.
- The driver should be available to answer questions from police and fire authorities.
Media Relations at the Scene of a Collision
Poor media relations at the scene of a collision can cause additional liability. Managers and program representatives should be familiar with and follow procedures when communicating with the media. Guidelines should be in place for employees or volunteers at the scene of a collision. The guidelines may include:
- Assume the media is present.
- Project a professional image.
- Maintain control of the situation.
- Do not quote hearsay or speculation.
- Do not accept responsibility for the collision.
- Explain "no comment" by saying, "I don't have enough information to answer that question accurately."
- Never speak "Off the Record".
- When interviewed on camera or video, carefully select the background. Stand in front of a neutral background, not in front of the crash.
- Contact the Sponsoring Organization immediately in the event of a serious collision.
A Review Committee, consisting of the Manager and other program representatives, is responsible for reviewing collision reports. In the event of a collision, the committee comes together to review the details of the collision and make recommendations. All collisions must be evaluated for preventability. In each case, preventability is evaluated on the basis of the following statement: "Did the driver do everything reasonably possible to avoid the circumstances that led to this collision?"