Teen Drivers (ages 16 - 19) are three times more likely to get involved in a car accident than those 20 or older. 1 in 4 teens will be in a collision during their first year of driving.
U.S. Department of Transportation Statistics confirm 963,000 teen motor vehicle accidents every year. Close to 3000 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.
So, attorney Craig Swapp stopped by to inform us of what to do to educate our kids, and prepare them for what to do in the event of the 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.
What to teach your kids before an accident:
- Inspect your car before driving it - look for a low or nearly flat tire,, make sure windshield is clean and film-free (film can cause low visibility early in the morning or at sunset)
- Always carry your driver`s license with you
- Know where the insurance card and registration are located (usually in the glove box)
- Take your phone with you - to be able to call police or take photos/video
- What safety equipment is in the car or trunk - including safety reflectors, first aid kit, or flares (teach them how to light them)
Teach your kids what to do right after an accident:
- 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.
- 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. (You may want to actually have your teen light a flare as practice.) 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.
- Call Police & Report the Accident
It is important to immediately call 911 or another police emergency phone number - 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.
- 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.
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.
- Take Notes About the Accident and Investigation
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.
- Take Photos of the Accident
Teen drivers should use their smartphone to take photos or video after an accident.
Before police ask drivers or tow truck operators to move the vehicles, the teen should take photos or videos 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 photos or videos of the roads, weather conditions, 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.
- 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.
- Do Not Admit 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.
- If Necessary, Call an Attorney for Help
After then teen has safely completed the first seven steps, they should discuss their parent or guardian if an attorney should be retained to receive assistance with your claim. If it`s not clear if an attorney`s help is needed, call a reputable attorney - most have free consultations.
If you'd like to speak to an attorney, and find out more info, contact Craig Swapp's office at 800-404-9000 or go online at craigswapp.com.