How to Handle Your Teenager’s First Car Accident
By Guest Author: Marie Sulenski
All parents worry about their teen drivers getting into a car accident. Joanne Helperin of Edmunds Inc. told Disney Family that, statistically speaking, there’s a good chance a teen driver will be involved in an accident during the first 12 months of driving. We’re not saying it’s going to happen… we’re just saying it could. Read this before it does:
Get More Involved
Take this step long before you hand your teenager the keys. The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) told Forbes that parental involvement is the most critical factor in reducing the risk of accidents for teenagers. Teenagers who are given supportive yet direct rules regarding their driving are half as likely to get into a crash, and 30 percent less likely to use a cell phone while driving.
Teach your teen safe driving habits and agree upon ground rules when he or she is behind the wheel. Driving-Tests.org offers a variety of resources, including a parent-teen driving contract you can print out. Use it as a guide to set rules, penalties and a mutual understanding of what is expected.
Parents should also take advantage of graduated driver licensing programs in their respective states. These enable teen drivers to gradually gain experience in different driving situations.
The first few moments when both parties exit their vehicles and begin communicating typically go a long way in determining the outcome of the incident. Remind your teenager: Less is more. The only information he is required to give the other party is insurance, driver’s license and contact information. Discussing the particulars of the accident itself is discouraged.
Your teen should never admit an accident was his fault, even if it seems obvious that it was. The admission can be used against him in administrative proceedings or court (if it gets that far). Instead, instruct him to use his smartphone to take several pictures of the scene. This includes photos of the damage both cars sustained, the interior of the car, the surrounding scene, etc. Many insurance providers now have accident apps that allow you to snap and upload photos directly to them.
The New Car
Hopefully the first accident your teenager is involved in is of the fender-bender variety. There will, of course, be cases in which the car is totaled or the repairs are so costly it makes more sense to get a new vehicle. Whether you will help pay for the new car is up to you, but this could be used as an incentive for safe driving. You could pay half of the monthly payment each month they go without an accident and moving violation. You could also pay for a less expensive car in cash and forgive portions of the payback from your teenager based on the same conditions.
Finally, Remember This
Accidents are going to happen with teenage drivers. Well-prepared, involved parents can mitigate the anxiety that comes with them. The most important thing is your teenager’s health and well-being. Remind him of this, too. Cars can be replaced; people can’t.
About the Author:
Marie is entertainment and lifestyle freelance writer who dreams of writing the next great American novel.