Heroes need backup too

May 1, 2007
No matter one's religious persuasion or lack thereof, anyone of goodwill can take away from reading the parable of the Good Samaritan that we should all be willing to render assistance to all who need it as if they were not strangers but our neighbors.

No matter one's religious persuasion or lack thereof, anyone of goodwill can take away from reading the parable of the Good Samaritan that we should all be willing to render assistance to all who need it as if they were not strangers but our neighbors.

This New Testament story is so powerful that to be called a Samaritan 2,000 odd years later is to be regarded as someone ready to help those in harm's way without a moment's hestitation. Or, in a more secular word, a hero.

Of course, down the centuries the lawyers have had their crack at the actual playing out of this moral tale. So now its spirit has, let us say, devolved a bit into laws in many countries and here at home that spell out the immunity to liability provided to a “Good Samaritan” whose administration of aid (such as at the site of an accident) unintentionally causes injury to those they helped.

Obviously without such laws, and the attorneys who specialize in them, it is likely only the most impulsive of heroes would swing into action to help others.

On the other hand, we all hear time and again from heroes of everyplace from the battlefield to the highway that they leapt to save others in dire straights pretty much without thinking about what they were doing.

Nonetheless, and especially in situations where the adrenaline is not pumping at 90mph, it can't hurt if someone who spends the majority of his or her daily life out on the highways and byways knows it's okay to stop and help motorists and others in need without fearing legal ramifications or, more likely, the ire of a dispatcher, customer or other boss.

In fact, an executive with one household-name firm that — through no design of its own I might add — astonishingly has two Goodyear Highway Hero drivers within its ranks went out of his way to tell me his company makes sure its drivers know it will back them up if they find themselves in a position to help others.

Jim Clark, transportation manager for FedEx Freight, points out proudly that not only was Ed Regener, who works for his operation, recently named the Goodyear North American Highway Hero for 2006 (see pg. 56) but Charles Ingram, a driver for corporate sibling FedEx Ground, received the same honor four years ago.

Clark contends Good Samaritan laws are on the books for a reason. “Most states adhere to the uniform motor vehicle code which holds that if you are involved in accident, you must stop. On the other hand, most state laws also say you do not have to render aid [unless you are a professional, such as an EMT or physician]. However, it is the moral obligation to assist that draws one under the protection of Good Samaritan laws.”

According to Clark, these statutes exist to protect passersby offering aid to a person who does not object or who is unconscious (which renders consent unnecessary). “These laws can limit liability in these situations,” he points out, “making it easier to make the decision to help.”

Clark says FedEx takes this whole thing a step further by making its employees aware that a corporate code of conduct expects them to see — and treat — everyone as a potential customer.

“In our eyes, the human factor and the company factor should be the same,” he states. “Our emergency roadside assistance policy is if someone is in need of aid, we want our drivers to stop and help. This is spelled out in our driver's handbook and it is reinforced in our monthly linehaul newsletter.”

Clark says the commitment to stopping when necessary is important and so is communicating that the company will not punish a driver for rendering assistance.

“Ed [Regener] told me when he swung into action he felt confident FedEx would back him up even though he would have done what he did [regardless].”

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