If there is a new teen driver in your family, you may eventually have to deal with your young driver’s first accident. According to statistics, car accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers across the country. In many cases, the teens in these accidents were behind the wheel or had a young driver behind the wheel. In addition to fatalities, accidents involving young drivers can cause serious burn injuries, broken bones, brain injury, spinal cord injury, and other injuries. Even a small fender-bender can cause a young driver to panic or can cause a teen driver to start feeling uncomfortable behind the wheel.
Before you get that call from your teen, you may want to have a frank discussion with your young driver. Sit them down and explain to them the statistics about car accidents and carefully develop a plan together for avoiding car accidents. Although many teens assume that accidents will not happen to them, you will want to develop a plan with your teen about what they should do if they are in an accident.
Of course, you will want to ensure that your teen is able to avoid a car accident if at all possible. A leading cause of accidents among teenage drivers is distraction, so make sure that your teen knows to avoid too many passengers, loud music, and cell phones while on the road. Make sure your teens get excellent driver education and discourage night time driving, which can be much trickier, especially for new drivers.
Even with the best precautions, your teen driver may still be in an accident. If you get a call that your teen has been in an accident, make sure that you:
1) Get the details of any injuries. If your child is in a hospital, get the name of the hospital and a room number so that you can rush right over. If your teen was simply in a fender bender, find out where the car was.
2) Get your young driver to take control. When talking to your teen on the phone after the accident, have them calm down and ask them to seek help for anyone who is injured. Make certain that your young driver pulls their car off the road to prevent further accidents. Not all new drivers know to do this or think to do this after an accident.
3) Get your young driver to protect themselves legally. Sometimes, other drivers assume that teen drivers are at fault or do not know enough to protect their legal interests after an accident. Make sure that your teen documents the car accident with a camera or cell phone camera and gets contact and insurance information from any other driver involved in the accident. Ensure that your young driver does not make any admissions of guilt – encourage your driver to share only name, contact information, and insurance information.
4) Go with your young driver to fire an accident report with the police (if necessary), and with the Department of Motor Vehicles. Be there when your teen calls the insurance company. Allow your teen to handle the details, but offer encouragement and support when needed.
5) Discuss the accident and offer support. Talk about what happened with your young driver. He or she may be feeling a jumble of emotions. Discuss some of the possible reasons for the car accident and discuss how similar accidents can be prevented in the future. If your teen is nervous about getting back behind the wheel, consider offering more training to help your teen regain confidence.