“What do I do if…” Car Safety Lessons for Teens

In our every day lives, we encounter a variety of different situations, and through repetition and familiarity, we have learned how to handle each one. But sometimes, we encounter a situation that we have never experienced. We may not know what to do or may take us longer to figure out the right reaction. However, with life experience and knowledge, we are able to figure out the solution. Imagine what it is like to be a teenager facing a difficult situation. They have less life experience and knowledge overall to help them make appropriate decisions. So it’s helpful for parents or teachers to throw out hypothetical situations for conversation about a variety of subjects. If teens have to think through their reactions beforehand to experiences they may encounter but have never actively thought about, then they will be better prepared to make a good decision in the moment. Today, we’ll consider some safety lessons for the teen who has just started driving.

What do I do if I’m involved in a motor vehicle accident?

Call 911 and do not leave until you have spoken to a police officer. If you are involved in a minor accident, no one is injured and the vehicles are drivable, move your vehicle to the untraveled portion of the roadway, if possible. Activate your emergency flashing lights if they are working. Cars left in the roadway contribute to traffic hazards. If you are injured, when the law-enforcement officer arrives at the accident scene, tell him or her immediately that you are injured and describe your injuries.

At the accident scene, you should get the name, address, and phone number of each driver along with the vehicle(s) license plate numbers and each driver’s license number; the name of his or her automobile insurance company and the policy number; and the make and model of all vehicles involved in the accident. Many times, the police will obtain this information from each person at the scene.

What do I do if I witness a car accident?

Immediately call 911. Do not exit your own vehicle in the middle of traffic, or leave your vehicle somewhere where it could cause another car accident, but rather pull over to the right side of the road, preferably 100 feet away from the accident and turn on your hazard lights. If you suspect or know that an injury occurred and you believe it is safe to approach the car, you can try to make the victims as comfortable as possible. However, you should NOT move an injured person unless he or she is in a burning vehicle. Moving an injured person can turn a minor injury into a serious one. Also, do not try to confront any of the parties involved in the accident as being at fault – just wait for the police to arrive.

When the police arrive at the scene of the accident, give your name to the police and to the parties involved in the accident. You should also consider making notes about what you personally saw, as you may be called on to help reconstruct the accident if there are questions about who was at fault.

If you witness a hit and run car accident, you should not try to confront the driver, as this could put you in danger. Instead, write down the license plate number of the car that drove off and immediately call 911.

What if I’m stopped for a traffic violation?

If you are signaled to pull over by a police officer, you should immediately pull over to the right side of the roadway (do not stop on the left shoulder) so long as it’s a public place or major highway with lots of traffic. If you are in a rural or isolated area where there are no other people, you should continue on and call 911 to tell them that you are being asked to pull over, but that you want to get to a gas station or other public area. The dispatcher will inform the police officer following you. This is also true if an unmarked police car tries to pull you over.

Once stopped, you should put the vehicle in park and remain seated in the vehicle. You should never exit the vehicle unless directed to by an officer. When an officer is approaching your vehicle no one in the vehicle should make any sudden movements. Everyone should stay seated, the driver should place both hands on the steering wheel, and the passengers should keep their hands in their laps or at least clearly visible.

Under most circumstances the officer will ask for your license, registration and proof of insurance. It is then acceptable to retrieve those items for the officer. The officer should tell you why he or she stopped you, and if they don’t, it is acceptable to ask.

What do I do if I encounter a roadblock?

Police officers are permitted by law to operate safety traffic checkpoints. Many checkpoints do not pull over every vehicle, but rather every two or three vehicles to check for sobriety. If you are chosen, the police will shine a flashlight in your car and ask you a few questions to determine if you appear sober. Assuming you are sober, the police officer will wave you through fairly quickly. However, if you act suspicious or are showing signs of being intoxicated, they will ask you to park for further questioning and for a sobriety test.

What do I do if I get a flat tire or my car breaks down?

If you should experience a flat, blowout, or car breakdown, it is important to stop. Continuing to drive on a bad tire can ruin the whole wheel causing a lot of expensive damage. Similarly, if your car is smoking or otherwise showing signs of breaking down, you can inflict more damage by continuing to drive.

If you are experiencing car trouble while traveling on an interstate highway or other high-speed roadway, follow these tips. At the first sign of trouble, grip the steering wheel firmly. Don’t slam on the brakes, but rather let the car slow down gradually by taking your foot off the gas pedal. Work your vehicle toward the breakdown lane or, if possible, toward an exit (do not stop in traffic). It’s important to have the car well off the pavement and away from traffic before stopping. Once off the road, turn your emergency flashers on and call for help. Raise your hood and tie something white to the radio antenna or hang it out a window so police officers or tow truck operators will know that you need help. Don’t stand behind or next to your vehicle. Stay inside your vehicle with your seat belt on. Lock your doors but keep your windows cracked. Unfortunately, you cannot trust someone who stops to help you. There have been reports of predators patrolling highways looking for stranded motorists as their next victim. If someone other than a policeman or tow truck operator stops and offers to help, ask them to use their cell phone to call the police and stay inside your locked car.

Parents should consider signing up their teen for a roadside assistance program. Although teaching your teen to change a flat tire sounds like a good idea, there are a couple of problems involved. First, if they don’t do it exactly right for their specific car, it can cause worse damage or even an injury. Second, it’s actually quite dangerous to change a tire on the side of a busy road. Third, most teens do not have the strength to loosen the lug nuts put on by mechanics with a pneumatic wrench, so even if they have the know-how, they can’t actually implement it.


You may want to bullet these items and print these out for your teen. We need to make our teens aware so that they do not make regrettable mistakes. The items above may be common sense for adults, but for teens that have never experienced these situations, it can be a very scary and stressful time.

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