The most common business auto claim is backing into something, writes Steve Moody in Coverage Claims & Consequences. Some examples are:

  • backing out of a driveway and hitting a parked car.
  • turning within a parking lot and striking a boundary pole.
  • backing up to leave a parking space and failing to notice the car behind.

No matter how common these accidents occur, know that they are always preventable.

Expensive auto damage, repairs and injury can be avoided by teaching your not-for-profit's drivers to be cautious when backing up. Although employees and volunteers may spend many hours driving, we tend not to think of highways and streets and part of the workplace. Start considering the driveway, garage, parking space, street and alley as part of your workplace and safe ways to operate in this venue will automatically be included in your workplace safety lessons. Here are some tips for backing up safely.

Have to See It to Avoid It

Visibility is all-important to safely completing the maneuver. Driving in reverse is never easy to accomplish. It's uncomfortable to crane your neck from side to side, and twist around to see out the rear window. For the "vertically challenged" headrests, even the "open" variety, can be hard to see around, and left and right mirror mounts can create blind spots. Stuff packed to the roof, impairs the view, as can passengers.

Easy Does It

Always back up slowly. It's easier to control a vehicle when moving at a speed less than 3 mph. The driver has to constantly look to the rear, the left and the right, while steering a heavy object into traffic.

It's All Relative

If you're wheeling an SUV or a Hummer, a Mini Cooper or VW Beetle can be hard to see. The toddler or lawn mower at the rear bumper can be obscured no matter what's being driven.

Keep the Windows Clear

An unobstructed view is imperative when backing up.

  • Keep luggage, camping gear, and other paraphernalia below the driver's sight line.
  • Keep the rear window ledge empty.
  • Don't use suit hooks to hang clothing which covers side rear windows.
  • Clean all window glass regularly, inside and out.
  • Replace windshield wiper blades (front and rear) before they streak or scrape the glass.
  • Request passengers (front passenger, as well as those in backseat(s) to sit back, or move to their left or right to give the driver a clear view.

Eliminate Blind Spots

Drivers must pay extra attention to blind spots: any areas which they can't see through the windows and/or in their mirrors. A blind spot make drivers just that-blind to what or who is there. Drivers should make adjustments to eliminate blind spots prior to starting the engine. Here's how:

  • While sitting squarely in the driver's seat, move the rearview mirror until you can see the full rear window without moving your head.
  • Tilt your head left and move the left mirror until you can see the car's left side and rear fender; do the reverse to adjust the right mirror.
  • Test the positions by watching a car approach. First you'll see the car in your rearview mirror, then in the side mirror and then in your peripheral vision. Make minor adjustments until this test works for you.

Backing up

  • Check in all directions to make sure the way is clear.
  • Always turn and look directly behind you while backing up.
  • Yield the right of way to pedestrians, cyclists and approaching traffic.
  • Steer with one hand, while looking out the rear window.

Backing out of a parking space

In addition to the backing up directions above:

  • Back out slowly to make sure other vehicles or pedestrians see the vehicle.
  • Remember that on-coming traffic has the right of way.
  • Turn the wheels only after the car clears other cars or obstacles, such as pillars and posts.


Whether drivers are employees or volunteers, whether they are driving their own vehicles or an organization-owned vehicle, whether this is a once-in-a-blue-moon offer to drop a service recipient at the doctors or a regular service offered to clients by the organization, accidents cost the organization. Costs can range from lost work time, health insurance and sick leave to property damage, liability insurance and legal expenses. Prevention is a lot less expensive.

Business Auto Insurance

The business auto policy (BAP), also called business auto coverage form or commercial auto policy, provides liability coverage and physical damage coverage.

A growing number of not-for-profits purchase auto policies to cover the vehicles they own and use to deliver services. Most brokers and agents recommend that, at a minimum, all not-for-profits buy an auto policy that provides nonowned and hired auto liability coverage. Nonowned and hired auto liability coverage is typically the only auto coverage a not-for-profit will require if it doesn't own any vehicles. See Chapter 7 in Coverage, Claims and Consequences for more information.

Reprinted with permission from the April 26, 2005 e-News, published by Nonprofit Risk Management Center ( a not-for-profit serving other not-for-profits through articles, books, online training, workshops, conferences and consulting with a not-for-profit's slant on managing risk.


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