Teen Drivers: What To Do After An Accident
was excited to finally get his license. He was looking forward to going to the
movies and to visit friends without needing someone to take him.
couple weeks later, Alex was headed to his friend Matt's house. Two blocks from
Matt's, Alex waited at a stop sign when he felt a sudden jolt. Someone had
rear-ended his car. Alex started panicking — and his first thought was
"What do I do now?"
2005 alone, there were more than 6.1 million police-reported traffic crashes in
the United States. Combine those with the number of incidents that aren't
reported to the police and it adds up to a lot of collisions.
you do your best to drive responsibly and defensively, it's still smart to know
what to do just in case you end up in an accident. Crashes can be very scary,
but here are some tips if one happens to you:
some deep breaths to get calm. After a crash, a person may feel a wide
range of emotions — shock, guilt, fear, nervousness, or anger — all of which
are normal. But take a few deep breaths or count to 10 to calm down. The calmer
you are, the better prepared you will be to handle the situation. This is the
time to take stock of the accident and try to make a judgment about whether it
was a serious one.
yourself and others safe. If you can't get out of your car — or it's
not safe to try — keep your seat belt fastened, turn on your hazard lights,
then call 911 if possible and wait for help to arrive. If you can drive your car
and are in an unsafe spot or are blocking traffic, find a safe and legal place
to park your car (like the shoulder of a highway or a parking lot). In some
states it's illegal to move your car from the scene of an accident, though. Ask
your driver's ed instructor what the law is in your state.
the car accident seems to be minor, turn off your car and grab your emergency
kit. If it's safe to get out and move around your car, set up orange cones,
warning triangles, or emergency flares around the accident site.
on everyone involved in the crash to see if they have any injuries. This
includes making sure you don't have any serious injuries. Be extremely cautious
— not all injuries can be seen. If you or anyone involved in the accident
isn't feeling 100%, you should call 911 or any other number your state uses to
request emergency assistance on roadways. Be ready to give the dispatcher the
Who? The dispatcher will ask for your name and
phone numbers in case the authorities need to get more information from you
What? Tell the dispatcher as much as you can
about the emergency — for instance, whether there is a fire, traffic hazard,
medical emergency, etc.
Where? Let the dispatcher know exactly where the
emergency is taking place. Give the city, road name, road number, mile markings,
direction of travel, traffic signs, and anything else you can think of to help
them know how to find you.
sure you stay on the line until the dispatcher says it's OK to hang up.
you can get the police to report to the scene of the accident even if there are
no injuries, especially if you tell them you need someone to mediate — in
other words, to help you figure out what happened and who's at fault. But in
certain areas, as long as both vehicles can be safely driven away, police
officers won't come to the scene unless someone is hurt. If the police do not
come to the scene, make sure you file a vehicle accident report at a police
station or DMV.
you are feeling up to it, ask to see the driver's license of the other drivers
involved in the crash so that you can take down their license numbers. Also get
their name, address, phone number, insurance company, insurance policy number,
and license plate number. If the driver doesn't own the car involved, be sure to
get owner's info as well.
on the Accident
the car accident is minor and you feel that you can describe it, try to do so.
Detailed notes and photos of the scene may help the court and insurance agencies
decide who is responsible for the accident. Get a good description of the cars
involved — year, make, model, and color. If your phone has a camera, use that
or another camera to take photos of the accident scene — including the cars
and any damage, the roads, any traffic signs, and the direction each car was
you feel well enough, try to draw a diagram of the exact crash site and mark
where each car was, what direction the car was coming from, and what lane it was
in. Also, write down the date, time, and weather conditions. If there were any
witnesses, try to get their names and contact info so that they can help clear
up matters if one of the other drivers isn't completely honest about what really
you can only do these things if you think the accident was a minor one (for
instance, if the airbag did not inflate). Even if you think the accident was
your fault, it may not be. That's why insurance companies say that you should
not admit fault or accept blame at the scene.
the crash itself might be upsetting, dealing with the aftermath can be too. In
the hours or days following an accident, some people may still be shaken up.
They may be beating themselves up over what happened — especially if they feel
the accident was avoidable. Sometimes, people close to those who were involved
in the accident (like families and best friends) can experience some emotional
problems too. These feelings are all normal. Once some time passes, the car is
repaired, and the insurance companies are dealt with, most accidents become mere
some cases, though, these feelings can get stronger or last for longer periods
of time, keeping a person from living a normal life. Post-traumatic
stress disorder (PTSD) can occur when a person has experienced a
devastating event that injured or threatened to injure someone. Signs of PTSD
may show up immediately following the accident, or weeks or even months after.
everyone who experiences stress after a trauma has PTSD. But here are some
symptoms to look out for:
avoiding emotions or any reminders of the incident
constant feelings of anxiousness, crankiness, or anger
avoiding medical tests or procedures
constantly reliving the incident in one's mind
nightmares or trouble sleeping
you notice any of these symptoms after you've been in a car accident, try
talking through the experience with friends or relatives you trust. Discuss what
happened, and what you thought, felt, and did during the accident and in the
days after. Try to get back into your everyday activities, even if they make you
uneasy. If these things don't help, ask your parent or guardian to help you
check in with your doctor.
car accidents aren't as serious as a collision. Plenty of people have minor
incidents — like running over the mailbox while backing out of the driveway.
Somewhere between hitting mailboxes and hitting other cars are common problems
like blowouts and breakdowns.
a flat tire while you're driving can be jarring — literally. There are some
things you can do to prevent this — make sure your tires aren't too old and
check the tire pressure at the gas station at least once a month. If you do find
yourself in a blowout situation, though, here are a few suggestions from the
National Safety Council to get you through it unharmed:
Safely bring your car out of traffic and stop.
Once you realize you have tire trouble, firmly hold the steering wheel. Don't
slam on the brakes — instead, gently take your foot off the gas pedal and let
the car slow down. Steer your car toward the breakdown lane or exit (if you are
on the highway) or a parking lot (if you are on a smaller road). It's important
to get out of the way of traffic, even if you have to drive (very cautiously) on
the flat tire to do it. When your car is in a safe place, brake gently until you
come to a complete stop.
Set up your breakdown site. Once safely off the
road and out of the line of traffic, turn on your emergency flashers. Take out
your warning signs (cones, triangles, or flares) and place them behind your car
so that others realize that your car is disabled. If you know how to change your
tire and can do it safely without getting too close to traffic, do it.
Get help if you need it. Raise the hood of your
car and hang a white T-shirt or rag out the window or off the radio antenna so
that police officers and tow truck operators will know you need help. Don't try
to flag down other vehicles. Use a cell phone, a highway emergency phone, or a
pay phone to call for assistance. Only walk along a multi-lane highway if you
can see a phone or someone who can help you nearby.
Don't walk in or get near traffic. Does this
really need further explaining?
After it's done. Take your car to the shop so a
mechanic can make sure there's no long-term damage to your car.
your car breaks down, safely bring the car to a stop and out of the line of
traffic. Set up your breakdown site out of traffic. A major difference between
flat tires and breakdowns is that it's less likely that you will be able to fix
a car that has broken down. That's why it's wise to signal that you need help by
properly displaying the white cloth and calling for roadside assistance or the