Teen car accidents: how to prevent and prepare

a young woman in distress after getting into a car accident

Watching your teenager drive off on their own for the first time can be a bittersweet experience. You spent hours and hours preparing them to be safe drivers, but you still worry. How can you go the extra mile to safely prepare your child for the open road? We can answer that question, but first, let’s look at some of the statistics and factors that lead to teen car accidents.

Teen accident statistics

According to the CDC, about 2,400 teens in the U.S are killed in car accidents each year and almost 258,000 teens are hospitalized. Teenage boys are two times more likely to be killed in a car accident than teenage girls, so if your son is about to start driving, you may want to take extra care in teaching him how to be a safe driver. Our ultimate driving safety guide is a great first step in your conversation about the importance of driver responsibility.

Next, let’s talk about some of the reasons teens are more at risk.

Why do teens get into accidents?

There are many reasons why teen drivers are more likely to be in car accidents, and knowing those reasons can help you keep your child out of potentially dangerous situations. There are two main categories that most teen car accidents fall into: factors outside of their control and those that are within their control. We’ll go over each.

Factors outside of their control

Inexperience is dangerous

Your child is most at risk of being in an accident in the months after they obtain their driver’s license.

How you can help: Even after your teen is legally able to drive alone, continue regular driving lessons with them to reinforce good habits.

Drowsy driving

About one in 10 car accidents are caused by drowsy driving. Teens have busy schedules, and while they may feel fine to drive home after a long day, many don’t understand their own limitations yet.

How you can help: Teach your child to recognize the signs that they may be too tired to drive; excessive yawning, inability to focus, and missing turns are all things to look out for. Reassure your teen that if they feel this way, you are only a phone call away and will pick them up if need be.

Factors within their control

More passengers are less safe

If your teenager has become their friends’ driver of choice, it’ll increase their chances of being in an accident. In fact, that chance increases with every additional teen passenger they have in their vehicle.

How you can help: It’s essential to set clear boundaries with your child about how many friends they can have in their car at one time. There are often legal limits to this as well depending on how long your teen has had their license.

Seat belts are key

Unfortunately, teens are less likely to use seat belts than adult drivers. Only 87% of teens regularly remember to use their seatbelts, while adult drivers tend to remember 90% percent of the time.

How you can help: Lead by example by always buckling up when you drive and remind your teen to do the same. Let them know their driving privileges will only be allowed to continue if they always use their seatbelt.

Texting while driving

According to the 2019 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, about 39% of teens send texts or emails while driving. This kind of distracted driving claims about 3,142 lives a year, and those numbers seem to be growing. Some states have even banned the use of phones by drivers altogether, so we’ve compiled each state’s specific cell phone laws.

How you can help: Talk to your teen driver about how dangerous distracted driving can be. You can also check out this list of apps that will prevent your child from using their phone while driving.

Speeding

Teens are far more likely than older drivers to speed, and speeding is a huge factor when it comes to the severity of car accidents. In 2018, 30% of male drivers aged 15–20 years and 18% of female drivers aged 15–20 years involved in fatal crashes were speeding.

How you can help: As always, you should talk to your teen about the dangers of speeding and continue to demonstrate safe techniques in your driving. There are also tracking systems you can use to monitor your child’s driving.

Drinking and driving

We all know that drinking any amount of alcohol can increase the risk of a car accident. Teenagers who drive under the influence are even more likely to be involved in a crash. In 2018, 24% of drivers aged 15–20 killed in fatal motor vehicle crashes had been drinking.

How you can help: Even though drinking under the age of 21 is illegal in the U.S., many teens still find a way to drink. Being an involved parent may be the best possible way to keep them from drinking and driving. Ways to do this include setting a curfew and greeting your child when they get home to check for signs of alcohol use, making sure your own alcohol in the house is not easily accessible, and making a pact with your teen that they will never drink and drive. Consider a contract you can print out and have them sign to understand the importance of only driving when sober. Finally, let your child know that if they are ever in a situation where they or the person they are riding with has been drinking, they can call you for a safe ride home.

Even with all the prevention in the world, sometimes accidents do happen. That’s why it’s essential that your child also knows what to do if they are involved in a crash.

What to do in an accident

If your teen is involved in a car accident, they must have a clear plan of action so they don’t panic. The following steps are a great general guide to share with your teen driver:

  1. See if anybody is hurt. If they are, call 911 ASAP.
  2. Move your vehicle off the road/out of traffic if it’s drivable and turn on the hazard lights.
  3. If it’s impossible to drive the vehicle, call roadside assistance or a towing company to move the car.
  4. Call the police to report the accident.
  5. Exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver.
  6. Take photos of the accident.
  7. Write down any other details about the accident in your phone’s Notes app. Include the other driver’s contact info, their vehicle’s make and model, the location, the weather at the time of the accident, the date, and the time. Also, include any contact information for witnesses.
  8. Get a copy of the police report.
  9. Call your insurance company to start the claims process.
  10. Let the insurance company guide the process from there.

Insurance for your teen

Your teen should be added to your Elephant car insurance policy as soon as they are licensed. We offer savings and safe driving incentives for your teen, including accident forgiveness.

With the right practice and knowledge of how to both prevent teen car accidents and what to do should one occur, you can rest easy knowing your child is safer on the road. Protect them in the process by getting a quote today.

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