It may be scary to let your teen out alone on the road at first, but with proper preparation, you should have nothing to worry about. They’ve completed driver’s ed and have started to gain experience as a permit driver, but you are “worried about the other people on the road,” so have a talk about what to do in case of an accident.
Let’s face it, they’re teenagers and don’t have much time (or interest) in listening to your lectures, so make it brief! Take them out to their favorite place (remember how you used to bribe them) and get the important facts into their heads fast.
Take deep breaths and be calm.
Even though they may feel an array of emotions, taking deep breaths and being as calm as possible will help to handle the situation properly. Tell them it’s normal to start shaking, but their nerves will calm quickly.
They are going to blame you.
When people see a young driver behind the wheel, they are going to assume the new driver is to blame. Let your teen know this will probably happen and prepare them by telling them not to admit fault or place blame – and to always remain calm and neutral. Suggest preparing a rehearsed line in which he or she asks the other driver if they are ok and asks for their information. After that, they should wait for you and/or the police to arrive.
Keep yourself and others safe.
If they cannot get out of their car, make sure they know to stay inside; call 911 if possible and wait for help to arrive. If the collision is minor, make sure they know to turn their car off, move the car off to the side of a busy road when possible, and set up emergency warning signs, such as cones.
Check for injuries. Once your teen knows they are safe, check on all those involved in the crash to be sure everyone is safe. Not all injuries can be seen, so it’s better to be safe than sorry. Have any bumps or bruises checked out in the hospital – this could save a life if there are any internal injuries.
Exchange driver (and witness) information.
A major rule for new drivers is to know to always take down the personal and insurance information of the other people involved in the crash. Even if the other person claims to “take care” of the situation, documenting what happened is necessary. If there was a witness to the accident, be sure to collect contact information from that person as well.
Writing down the facts while it is fresh in their minds is key. Note any damage and try to recall what occurred before, during and after the accident. More details up front will help when describing the accident to police and/or insurance companies. The more details the better – even make note of the weather conditions.
Pictures tell a thousand words, so record everything – the scene, all cars involved, intersections, road signs, license plates – basically anything your teen thinks will help tell the story.
These steps may seem like second nature to veteran drivers who have unfortunately been in an accident, but for a first time driver out on their own, it’s important for them to know exactly how to handle these situations. And, since repetition is the mother of all learning, why not print out a copy and leave it in the glove box with the insurance and registration information and a hand written note at the top: “Breath. It will all be ok. Love, ______________.”