November, 2002 – According the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) there were 1.7 million teen driver car crashes in year 2000. Of those crashes, they resulted in 7,600 teen deaths and 569,000 teen injuries. In Canada for the same year, teen drivers accounted for some 30,000 injuries and 387 fatalities. Teen driver car crashes remain the single leading cause of permanent injury and death in teens across North America.
Given the number of teens involved in car crashes, it is imperative that they know what to do in the event of a crash. To this end, the I Promise Program – teen safe driving initiative (www.ipromiseprogram.com), requested input from law enforcement agencies and officers to develop a list of just what teens (and all other motorists) should do in the event of a collision.
“Even though we promote teen driver safety, we recognize that teens will still be involved in collisions,” says Gary Direnfeld, executive director. “As such, the objective of this information is to minimize further risk in an already dangerous situation.”
Parents are advised to contact their local law enforcement agency concerning specific laws in their area while the following forms general guidelines of what to do in the event of a crash:
- After impact and the car has come to a full stop, remain calm and assess the situation. Look at yourself and passengers to determine if there are any injuries. Look out at the other vehicle and roadway to determine if there is a risk to yourself or others.
- In the event of an injury, render life saving first aid if you are qualified to do so and if it is safe to do so. At the same time, or as soon as possible, you or a bystander should call EMS (Emergency Medical Services), then your local law enforcement agency. In most areas, dialing 911 on a cell phone or any other telephone can place emergency calls. To reduce the risk of shock in serious injuries, you may consider opening the window to allow fresh air.
- Some jurisdictions require you by law to move your vehicle off the traveled portion of the roadway as part of a “quick clearance policy” while others prefer for the vehicle to be left in place to review as part of the investigation, as long as it is safe to do so. Check with your local law enforcement office on this matter in advance. However, safety considerations and good judgment will remain important in determining whether or not to move the vehicle in any given situation. Safety considerations should prevail.
- Set up road flares or other emergency signaling device to alert other drivers of the road hazard. Take caution however with road flares in the event of gas spills and leaking fuel tanks. Flares should be set up a safe distance from the vehicle and many law enforcement agencies recommend setting up “red reflective triangles” instead of using flares. Another motorist or bystander can stand at the side of the roadway and caution other motorists to slow down, coming upon the scene.
- If you are in a high traffic area and it is not safe to leave the vehicle, remain in your seat with your seat belt fastened. If it is safe to leave the vehicle and your vehicle is un-operational, leave the vehicle and get off the roadway a safe distance from the traveled portion of the roadway.
- Once the crash scene is stabilized, do not discuss fault with the other driver(s). A discussion of fault with the other driver(s) can lead to arguments, which in itself can pose a danger given the heightened emotions with the situation at hand. It is appropriate at this point to exchange information such as license plate number, insurer, policy number, phone and address. Be sure photo identification matches the identification holder. It is also appropriate at this point to obtain similar information from witnesses (a witness being anyone other than who was in any of the vehicles involved in the crash).
- Cooperate completely with law enforcement personnel and EMS personnel. They are there to help you. Provide all the information they require and follow their instruction. The law enforcement officer will record facts of the incident, take statements and write citations based upon observed violations of the law. Your insurer or lawyer may use this information to assess fault and liability.
- Call your parents and inform them of your situation. Tell them if you require any assistance such as medical aid or transportation. Assuming the situation is under control and you are safe, assure them of your safety so that they do not take aggressive action to meet you at the crash scene or hospital. You may need to tell your parents to respond in a safe and calm manner as they will be worried and scared about your well-being.
Many jurisdictions have specific laws with respect to reportable collisions and collisions involving highway property. All drivers are encouraged to contact their local law enforcement agency to learn about the specific laws in their area. Lastly, as the result of some collisions, you may have to take action in a manner not specified, but dictated by the situation. Above all, remain calm; assess the situation and act first with a regard to personal safety and the safety of others. Before heading out consider placing safety items that should be kept in trunk or rear area for emergencies related to crashes, i.e., flares, orange cones, disposable camera, heat blanket, pad and pencil, first aid kit, fire extinguisher, etc.
The I Promise Program (www.ipromiseprogram.com) recommends all parents sign a parent-youth safe driving contract to reduce the risk of car crashes. An ounce of prevention is still worth a pound of cure.
This survey was conducted by the I Promise Program – a teen safe driving initiative that promotes parents as role models by entering into a mutual safe driving contract with their teen. To provide accountability, a rear window decal is then affixed to the vehicle. The decal display a toll free number and the question, “Am I driving safely?” Calls are received by a call center and responses are sent by letter only back to the family. Youth, parents, community members, police and interested stakeholders in traffic safety have participated in developing this program.