Teen Drivers – those between 16 and 19 – are three times more likely to get involved in a car accident than those 20 or older.
One in four teens will be in a collision during their first year of driving.
U.S. Department of Transportation Statistics confirm 963 thousand teen motor vehicle accidents every year. Fewer than three thousand of those teen crashes result in a fatality.
Motor vehicle accidents are the number one cause of teenage death in the USA according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This can terrify parents. Fortunately the majority of accidents are not fatal. So, in addition to driver education and teaching safe driving habits, the best thing parents can do for teen drivers is prepare them for what to do in the event of an accident.
Teen drivers should know what to do after an accident. Doing the right thing can help a teen’s driving record, keep insurance premiums down and may prevent a new driver from getting into trouble for improper handling of an accident.
Before sending a new teen driver out on the road, teach these 8 steps:
1. Remain Calm
Accidents can be scary and stressful, especially the first time. But the first thing to do after an accident is to remain calm and collected. Panic, stress, anxiety, and anger will only cause more problems after an accident. Accidents happen every day and handling the situation calmly can keep things from getting worse than they have to be.
2. Keep Yourself and Others Safe
Keep yourself and others safe. Check for injuries and make sure everyone is alright or at least stable. Assist those injured in any way possible until emergency responders arrive.
If the teen is able to get out of the vehicle, setting up any emergency flares or warning cones may help ensure safety around the accident scene until help arrives. Whether or not you are able to get out of the car, activate the hazard lights and call for help immediately.
Stay out of travel lanes and breakdown lanes.
3. Call Police & Report the Accident
It is important to immediately call the police. Call 911. Call whether anyone is injured or not. While speaking with the dispatcher, inform them of any injuries. Describe the emergency situation as thoroughly as possible. Provide your location. If you are unsure, describe the area to the best of your ability. Street signs, business names, and other nearby landmarks may be helpful for a dispatcher in locating the accident scene. Stay on the phone with the dispatcher until they confirm that they have all the needed information.
If for any reason the police do not come to the accident scene, make sure you complete an incident report at some point after the accident. These forms can often be filed with the state police or the local police department.
4. Exchange Driver Information
Always take down the other driver’s information including name, address, telephone number, insurance policy, and all available contact information. If the driver was not the vehicle owner, ask for the vehicle owner’s insurance information as well. If the teen decides to file a claim with the vehicle owner or other driver’s insurance company, the insurance company will require all of this information to set up a claim.
Furthermore, the teen should also have their license, registration and insurance information handy at all times while operating a vehicle. This information needs to be given to the other driver. If police are present, they may assist with the exchange of driver information.
5. Take Notes
All drivers should always carry a pen and paper in their vehicles in case an accident does occur. While shaken up, it is extremely easy to become confused about details of an accident. Memory of a conversation may blur over time. So, it is extremely important to write down as much information as humanly possible.
If the teen is prepared and has a pen and paper, they are able to write down the officer’s name that was called to the scene of the accident, as well as all witness statements and the witness’ phone number and address.
If the other driver admits fault, apologizes, or receives a citation, make sure those facts are added to the notes.
6. Take Photos of the Accident
New drivers should learn always carry a camera for taking photos after an accident. Luckily, with the smartphone era upon us, almost everyone has a camera with them at all times. Part of being prepared is also making sure the teen is traveling with enough battery power on cell phones.
Before police ask drivers or tow truck operators to move the vehicles, the teen should take photos of the accident scene. Photos should include the damage and license plate in the same shot. Take pictures of all angles of the vehicles including points of contact with the other vehicle(s) and their damage. These photos of the damage and license plates will help the insurance companies and possibly a court make a determination as to who was at fault and the extent of damages.
Aside from vehicle photos, take pictures of the roads, the intersection, street signs, and anything else that may be relevant to show how the accident occurred and where. If there are skid marks, take a picture. If there is property damage such as a fence or utility pole, take a picture.
After the teen has collected sufficient photos, then the vehicle can be moves if allowed by the officer. In some states, it’s against the law to move a vehicle involved in an accident before the police arrive on the scene.
7. Call Home
After things have settled at the accident scene, the teen has collected all necessary information, and the emergency responders have evaluated everyone and the scene, the teenager needs to call their parents. Their parents need to know about the accident and may be able to help when talking to the insurance company, obtaining the police report, or calling an attorney. But most important, the parents need to know what happened to their child, and if they are alright.
Teen drivers may be nervous about calling parents because they want to avoid getting into trouble, or have driving privileges taken away. However, improper handling of an accident can get the teen in trouble from beyond their parents.
8. Call an attorney
After then teen has safely completed the first seven steps, they need to speak with their parent or guardian and set up a consultation with an attorney to receive assistance with your claim.
The aftermath of car accidents can be extremely stressful and emotionally traumatic, so an experienced attorney can help with the stress and the trauma of the accident, and assist you with receiving the compensation they deserve.
Teen Drivers & Accident Reporting
If teen crashes into a vehicle where the driver is not present at the moment make sure the teen knows they need to leave a note containing all necessary information, such as their name and insurance information. Leaving the scene of an accident without providing the other driver with the necessary information is a misdemeanor in many if not most states. Young drivers may impulsively want to leave in a panic out of fear. But part of being mature enough to drive entails being mature enough to do the right thing and handle an accident properly.
Not knowing how to handle a motor vehicle accident can cause far reaching problems as pointed out above. In some states, beyond raising premiums, some insurance companies cancel the teen’s coverage altogether where accidents are not properly reported. Occasionally the parents’ insurance may also be cancelled if there is concern over additional improper driving and reporting.
Teen Drivers & Fault
It is extremely important that the teen never apologizes or admits fault in any way. Apologies can be misconstrued as an admission of liability. This is especially true where older drivers may seek to intimidate a new driver into admitting fault when they may or may not have actually caused the accident, or where, as often happens, fault rests at least in part with multiple parties.
An actual liability determination requires analysis and review of all facts and circumstances leading up to a collision. Jumping to conclusions at the accident scene is premature. At this volatile stage the most important focus should be upon gathering and documenting the facts and evidence as we’ve pointed out above.
Teen Drivers Need to Learn What to do After a Car Accident
Talk to new drivers in your family. Knowing these steps can protect teenagers on the road. Make sure teens know how to drive safely and to make responsible decisions. We all want to believe we won’t ever have an accident. Unfortunately car accidents involving teens happen every day. Being prepared and knowing what to do can minimize the impact.
Traffic Safety Facts, “Young Drivers” , NHTSA, May, 2016.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Web-Based Injury Statistics Query & Reporting System.