Getting a driver’s license is one of those rite-of-passage moments that everyone remembers their entire life. Those first years of being a new driver on the road are some of the most exciting and freeing. But driving also demands a high level of responsibility and can even be stressful at times, especially for an inexperienced driver involved in an accident.
When a teenager gets into an accident they’re often unprepared because no one has instructed them as to how to handle the situation. While no parent wants to think of their teen being involved in an accident, at the same time it’s your job to prepare them for life’s more challenging and difficult circumstances – car accidents are no exception.
THE HARD REALITY OF TEENS AND DRIVING
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “motor car accidents are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens. In 2010, seven teens ages 16 to 19 died every day from motor vehicle injuries.”
WHAT YOUR TEENAGER SHOULD KNOW IF THEY ARE INVOLVED IN AN ACCIDENT
Prepare ahead of time: Even before you’re in an accident there are a few things you can do to be prepared. An “accident kit” should be kept in the glove compartment and contain a pen, paper, disposable camera, and a card with information about your medical conditions or allergies. It’s a good idea to keep some flares and/or warning triangles in your trunk. Finally, have your phone with you in your vehicle whenever possible
Get Calm: Right after you’ve been in an accident you’re likely to be pretty shaken up, but you’ll want your mind to be as focused as possible so that you can make good decisions. Take a moment to get calm, taking a few deep breaths and centering yourself –this will help you to deal with the situation with a clearer mind.
Determine the severity of the accident: If you can’t get out of the car, remain in your seat with the seatbelt fastened. Turn on your hazard lights to alert others that something is wrong. If you have a phone with you call 911 for help. Wait for help to arrive.
Secure your vehicle: If the accident isn’t too serious, the first thing you’ll want to do is move your car to a safer spot, either on the shoulder of the road or a nearby parking lot. If your vehicle still poses a risk to others on the road, place flares and/or warning triangles in a semi-circle around your car.
Call for help: If anyone is seriously injured, trapped in car, or there is a fire you should call 911 and they will send the necessary response team. Police should be called to the scene regardless so that they can create an accident report (be sure to get a copy for your own records). Note: Never discuss fault with an officer or the other driver.
Exchange information: Next you’ll want to write down the other driver’s information and give them yours. This includes name, phone number, address, and insurance carrier for the insured, as well as license number and plate number.
Note crash details: In addition to the above information it is important to write down as much as possible about how the incident happened. Include date, time, location, color and make of the vehicles involved, and a timeline of events. Take pictures of the street, and damages while you’re at the scene.
Contact your insurance: Report the incident to your insurance company as soon as you can. Be honest, and give them as much detail about what happened as you can recall. Never talk to the other driver’s insurance company.
As your parents about contacting a lawyer: As a teenager it may be hard to determine whether you should call a lawyer or not. Talk with your parents to determine the best course of action.
When it comes to driving, you can never prepare your teen too much. Although they might moan and groan when you’re telling them to be careful for the thousandth time, the statistics don’t lie: “Per mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are three times more likely than drivers aged 20 and older to be in a fatal crash,” reports the CDC. Your help might not be met with gratitude today, but if they are unfortunate enough to need the information after they’ve been in a crash, they will undoubtedly be grateful tomorrow.