What To Do If Your Teen Is In A California Auto Accident

For an experienced driver, operating a motor vehicle is second nature. Years behind the wheel allow them to competently navigate their way through traffic. However, for new drivers, this is not the case. Their lack of experience makes them far more likely to misjudge situations and make driving errors that can cause accidents. The statistics bear this fact out. Drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 are nearly three times more likely to be involved in a car accident than the rest of the driving population. In fact, car accidents are the number one cause of death for teenagers in the United States.

Lack of experience is one reason that teen drivers are more accident prone, but it is not the sole cause. Other teen driver risk factors include:

  • Overconfidence – Teen drivers tend to believe that they are immune to the consequences of risky behavior. This “bulletproof” attitude causes speeding, inattention, and other driving mistakes that raise the odds of an accident occurring
  • Driving With Passengers – Passengers can distract even the best of drivers. For teens, this distraction often has serious consequences. Teen drivers traveling with a passenger are almost four times more likely to be involved in an accident compared to teen drivers traveling alone
  • Alcohol and Drug Use – Driving while under the influence is always an irresponsible behavior that is fraught with risk. Once again, this risk is magnified for teens. Teens who drink and drive are far more likely to be hurt or killed in a car accident than sober drivers.

As a parent, the thought of your teenage child being involved in an accident can be terrifying. That’s why it’s important to take a proactive approach to teen driving. While safe driving education is essential to establishing good driving habits, by itself, it isn’t enough. The statistics demonstrate that accidents do happen to teen drivers despite driver education programs. That’s why it is also important to teach teenage drivers what to do if they are unfortunate enough to be involved in a car accident. Knowledge is power. A teen driver who knows what to do after an accident can protect their driving record, keep insurance costs down, and avoid the problems associated with failing to handle the accident properly. So, if your teen is involved in a traffic accident, teach them the following steps.

What To Teach Your Teenage Driver

Don’t Panic

A car accident is a stressful and frightening event. Despite this, it is very important that your teen stays calm. Emotions like panic or even anger will only serve to make the situation worse. A calm assessment of the situation and what needs to be done is going to more helpful in the long run than some of the potential actions that arise from negative emotions.

Check Yourself and Others For Injuries

Make sure that your teen initially checks himself for injuries. Often, the adrenaline that accompanies the shock of impact can mask otherwise obvious injuries. If your child is not injured, next have them check passengers in their vehicle, if any, for injuries and give assistance until emergency responders arrive. If there are no passenger injuries, have your teen check with the occupants of the other vehicle or vehicles involved in the accident for injuries and assist as necessary.

If the vehicle is drivable, activate the hazard lights and move it to the side of the road. Stay out of all traffic lanes and under no circumstances leave the scene of the accident.

Contact the Police

Call 911 whether there are injuries or not. If there are injuries, inform the emergency dispatcher of the location of the accident, and the nature of any injuries involved, and stay on the phone until the dispatcher says that it’s ok to hang up. If the police do not come to the accident site, make sure that a California DMV SR 1 traffic accident report form is filled out within ten days of the accident. The SR 1 form is available online at www.dmv.ca.gov or at any DMV office.

Contact Your Parents

Once emergency responders have been contacted, your teen should call home. Of course, most teens are going to be nervous about telling their parents that they have been involved in an accident. However, parents need to know that their child is safe, the situation is under control, and help is on the way. Parents will also be able to remind their child about what else they need to do at the accident scene regarding handling the situation properly.

Exchange Information

It is important to exchange contact and insurance information with the other drivers involved in the accident. Where possible, have the teen write down this information themselves directly from driver’s licenses and insurance cards. If another driver is uncooperative, it is better not to push the issue. In such a case, simply write down the license number of the car in question, along with the make and model. If the police are on the scene, they will facilitate the exchange of information between drivers.

Don’t Admit Fault

Stress, fear, and shock are common after-effects of a car accident. There also can be a surge of relief if a driver finds that they have escaped the collision without serious physical injuries. A combination of these emotions can cause a teenager to apologize because the accident occurred, especially when the other driver is an adult. However, even something as simple as an apology can be construed as an admission of fault. A teen driver must be aware that anything they say at the scene of the accident can be used against them in any future litigation that may arise due to the accident.

Talk to Witnesses

If there are other people who witnessed the accident and who weren’t occupants of the other vehicles involved, their contact information could become very important later on. Make sure that your teen gets that contact information. It will make reaching out to witnesses that much easier should the need arise.

Take Photographs

Visual evidence of the accident is vital to establish what occurred. Have your teen take photographs of the damage to the vehicles, their positions relative to one another, and any skid marks on the pavement. These photographs could prove essential in determining fault, thereby making damage recovery quicker and easier.

Unfortunately, teen car accidents are a common occurrence. If your teen has suffered injuries due to an accident that wasn’t their fault, the intelligent choice to make is to contact an attorney at Sevey, Donahue & Talcott. We’ll use our experience in California car accidents to help you recover the damages that you’re entitled to for your injuries, time off work, medical payments, and property damage. Contact us for a free consultation at (916) 788-7100, or through our online contact page.