Teach Teens What to Do In the Event of a Car Crash

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there are more than 2 million injuries from motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. every year. The risk of motor vehicle crashes is higher among 16-to 19-year-olds than among any other age group. This means that, sadly, there’s a fair possibility your teen could be involved in a car accident before they become a young adult.

Although there are many things that you teach your teen to prevent accidents, it’s still important that you also teach your teen what to do just in case they end up in a collision. Here are tips to give your teen:


The first thing you should do after a car accident is to check yourself (and passengers) for injuries. Be cautious — not all injuries can be seen. If you or a passenger have a serious injury, try not to move, call 911 and wait for medical personnel. If you’re not hurt, take some deep breaths to get calm. The majority of people in this situation feel a wide range of strong emotions after a crash, such as shock, guilt, fear, nervousness, or anger. Once you have calmed down, you are ready to take stock of the accident and determine your next course of action.

Get to Safety.

The next most important thing to do after an accident is to make sure you and others are safe. If the vehicles in the accident are blocking a lane of travel, it’s generally a good idea to move the cars. Take a look at the condition of the car and who is at-fault. If it is clear who the at-fault driver is, and the vehicle is not totaled, it’s best to move the car to a safe area. Safe areas include the shoulder, a parking lot, or a designated safe zone on a highway, such as a rest stop. Leaving your vehicle in a travel lane can cause a second or third accident if inattentive drivers approach the scene. If it is completely safe to do so, it can be helpful to take photographs of the accident before moving. While such photos can aid in supporting an argument as to fault, it is entirely a secondary consideration, with safety being the most important consideration.

If you can’t move the car, then turn on your hazard lights, leave the car, and call 911. If you cannot get out of the car, keep your seatbelt fastened while you wait for help.

Report the Accident.

If and when you call 911 (or any other number your state uses to request emergency assistance on roadways), be ready to give the dispatcher the following information:

  • Who? The dispatcher will ask for your name and phone number in case the authorities need to get more information from you later.
  • 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.
  • What? Tell the dispatcher as much as you can about the emergency — for instance, whether there are injuries, traffic hazards, a fire, etc.

The responding officers will fill out an accident report and document the scene. If the police can’t come to the scene of the accident, you can go to the nearest police station and complete a report yourself. If you file a claim with your insurer, they may ask for a copy of the police report to help with the claims process.

Exchange Information with Other Driver.

Exchange contact and insurance information with all drivers involved in the accident. The best way to do this is exchange driver’s licenses and auto insurance cards so that you can be sure the information given is accurate. You want to get the following information:

  • Full name, address and phone number of the driver.
  • Driver’s license number.
  • Vehicle’s license plate number.
  • Year, make, model, and color of all vehicles involved.
  • Insurance company and policy number.
  • If the driver is not the owner of the car, you should also get the full name and contact information of the vehicle owner.

Avoid discussing fault when going over the facts with the other driver. When you file an insurance claim, the adjuster reviewing your claim will determine who’s at fault based on an inspection of the vehicles, information provided by you and the other parties involved in the accident, and any supporting documentation, like the police report or photographs from the scene.

Take Notes on the Crash.

If you are able, detailed notes and photos of the scene may help insurance agencies decide who is responsible. Here are important pieces of information to collect:

  • Date, time and weather conditions at time of the accident.
  • Take photos of the scene — including all vehicles and any damage, the roads, any traffic signs, and the direction each vehicle was coming from.
  • 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.
  • If there were any witnesses, obtain their names and contact info.
  • If the police arrive, get the names and badge numbers of all responding officers.


Notify your Insurer.

If you want to file a claim, you will need to call your insurance agent and give them all of the information you collected. They will guide you through the process.

Final Thoughts…

It is normal for people to still feel a bit shaken up in the hours or days following a collision. You might feel anger at the other person if you feel they were at fault or feel guilt if you feel like the crash was avoidable. Passengers will also feel a wide range of emotions. Most of the time, car crashes will not feel as overwhelming once some time passes, the car is repaired, and the insurance companies are dealt with. Be kind to yourself in the meantime.

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