Teen drivers need to be prepared for accidents

February 07, 2003|by LISA TEDRICK PREJEAN

Your teenager has passed his driver's education class with flying colors. He seems mature. You've discussed the guidelines for using the family car. With a hug and a whispered prayer, you place the keys in his palm.


Have you talked to him about what to do if he's in an accident? You don't want to think about it, yet you need to prepare him ahead of time for the possibility.

"The first thing I would always recommend is that you need to be prepared with proper equipment in the car," says Deputy 1st Class Jim Holsinger of the Washington County Sheriff's Department.

The car should be equipped with a basic first aid kit and blankets, Holsinger says. These will come in handy if the car is broken down, cannot be driven, if there are injuries and if help is not immediately available.


A cell phone will enable the teen to call home to tell you what happened and to receive your guidance.

The teen should be told where the insurance card and vehicle registration are kept.

"They, as the operator, are responsible to find and present that material," Holsinger says.

If anyone involved in the accident is injured, that person should go to the hospital. Injuries that initially appear slight can turn into something more serious if left untreated.

"These things need to be taken care of immediately after the accident," Holsinger says.

Tell your teen to call police, especially if there is a lot of property damage, Holsinger recommends.

"We can make a determination whether an accident report should be filed," he says. "Law enforcement can help with traffic control if there is a traffic issue."

If the vehicles involved in the accident are in the way of traffic, they should be moved to the side of the road. This will help avoid another accident.

Having law enforcement officers present ensures that the correct information is exchanged - names, vehicle registration, auto insurance.

Sometimes people are hesitant to call police or contact their insurance companies because they don't want their insurance rates to increase, Holsinger says.

But it's never a good idea to make a deal with a stranger along the side of the road in regard to what damage will be covered by either driver.

There is a possibility that the person at fault will not call his insurance company and follow through with the claim. Plus, the vehicle that caused the accident could be stolen.

"This is valuable information to us to track down vehicles that are missing," Holsinger says.

The officer also checks to see if the drivers have valid licenses and that the vehicle registrations are current.

"It's much better to do everything through the system," Holsinger says. "Accidents are very emotional experiences.

"Use that law enforcement officer as a liaison for both sides."

If the accident occurs on a deserted highway and the teen feels unsafe getting out of the car, there are provisions in the law to provide for his safety.

He may drive to the first public place he encounters and call police. This will not be considered leaving the scene of the accident.

But if he drives past several gas stations and goes home to call, he has left the scene of the accident, Holsinger says.

If the other driver seems belligerent or violent, the teen should stay in the car, lock the doors and open the window just far enough for conversation but not far enough for the other person to reach in the car.

If the other vehicle leaves the scene of the accident, the teen should try to get the license plate number and write it down. This will help the police find the other driver.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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