scouts-l Mail Archive for May of 2000: Re: Another GSS question
Michael F. Bowman (mfbowman@BELLATLANTIC.NET
Sat May 06 2000 - 13:58:48 CDT
The statement in the Guide to Safe Scouting is unclear when it states:
"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."
It would be easy to argue that driving time means time behind the wheel and
that if you were on the road for 12 hours with 2 of it for rest, food, and
recreation, then you are complying with the rule. Probably most of us would
be thinking along those lines, if we needed to travel 500 miles in one day
and didn't want to have to stretch it to two days. We could also argue that
if BSA had meant "Travel Time" it could have and would have said so; e.g.,
you cannot be on the road more than 10 hours including time for rest, food,
and recreation stops.
Now suppose that something awful happens -- there is an accident late in the
day. Everyone was getting tired and something went wrong. Now a Scout is
on life-support from injuries as a result of the accident. The parents have
sued. They argue that BSA established a standard of care - not more than 10
hours on the road (their view) and that by going on a couple of extra hours
the leaders were over-tired, were exercising poor judgment, and were no
longer fit to be driving all of which caused the accident leading to the
injuries. Their lawyer points out that a work day is considered to be 8
hours. He/she points out standards for professional drivers requiring
breaks and limiting the number of hours on the road. He/she then goes on to
point out that the leader was not a professional driver and was already
straining halfway through the day. The lawyer shows the jury videos of the
boy in an oxygen tent and pictures from before the accident. The leader
gets grilled and admits to be being tired. Who wouldn't be on a twelve hour
trip. Who do you think the jury is going to favor at this point? I think
that most juries even with a judge's instruction would be thinking of a way
to help the victim get compensated and with the evidence most likely would
find for the victim.
If something goes wrong, then logical argument about what the rules really
mean may take second chair. Certainly anything beyond 10 hours of driving
and the jury may get an instruction that the leader was per se negligent, if
they find he drove more than 10 hours. If it is in the gray area, the jury
is likely to be more disposed to a victim than "a lawyer reading rules on
behalf of defendant". Even with less than 10 hours total, a leader is going
to be judged on whether he/she exercised due care.
The 10 hours is a maximum, but it is not a permission or a goal. Nor is it
a substitute for good judgment. On any trip, the safety of all participants
is a primary concern. If a driver is getting sleepy, tired, or into
difficulties, it is time for all to stop and assess the situation. It may
be time to call it a day. Even if you are 150 miles from home and a driver
is having trouble staying awake - the parents while grumbling, are certainly
going to be happier coming the distance to pick up their kids than having
them in a vehicle where the driver is asleep at the wheel. This is where
our "trustworthiness" as leaders is on the line. We have to be honest with
ourselves. If we are too tired to drive safely, we need to stop and rest.
If it means calling in another driver, staying an extra night, or finding
another alternative, then so be it. Do it. It may not make people happy to
be inconvenienced, but I think in the long run they will respect a decision
made to protect the safety of their children.
The bottomline here is that the rule establishes an unclear maximum time for
driving that is not a goal or precise cut-off point. Plan to drive less and
keep travel time down to 10 hours. That is a lot of time on the road,
especially with a car full of energetic people. Everyone will have a better
time and enjoy the trip more, if there is time each day to do a few things
after arriving at a destination. For example on a long trip you probably
would anticipate a couple of hours in the morning for breaking camp,
breakfast, and so forth. At the end of the trip you would anticipate
another couple of hours for supper, setting up camp, unpacking and the like.
This adds up to 14 hours. Most folks need eight hours of sleep. That
leaves two hours in the day to do something at your destination. Ten hours
on the road is a lot of time when seen in this light.
Michael F. Bowman firstname.lastname@example.org
Vice President, http://usscouts.org
U.S. Scouting Service Project, Inc.