New drivers have to face the reality that every time they get behind the wheel, the risk of an accident is lurking. Car crashes can result from many things, including speeding, drugs and alcohol, calling or texting, fatigue, or not paying attention. You could even find yourself in an accident caused completely by someone else.
Texting While Driving
In a recent online poll of 16-19 year olds, over 50% admitted that they text while driving. The numbers already show that even talking on a cell phone will increase the chances of getting into an accident, and that’s when your eyes are actually on the road! When you text, your eyes aren’t fully watching the road. Those few precious seconds back and forth can be the difference between life and death.
If you don’t think you’ll be able to resist answering or checking your phone while driving, a good rule of thumb is to put it somewhere in the car where you absolutely can’t get to it while you’re driving, like the very back. Yes, your friends may have to wait a few extra minutes to get a reply from you, but at least you won’t be causing accidents or getting hurt.
More and more states are banning the use of cell phones while driving. To see what the laws are in your state, check out the GHSA website. Also visit distraction.gov for details about each state’s laws.
Driving Under the Influence
Completely not worth it. Don’t drink and drive, and don’t ride with anyone who has been drinking. It doesn’t matter if you think you can pull it off—chances are, you can’t and you’ll get into a crash. Call parents or other, non-drunk friends to take you home if you need a ride. Similarly, don’t drive or ride with anyone who has been doing drugs. This can include over-the-counter drugs, depending on how drowsy they can make you.
Putting on your makeup, changing the radio station, friends wrestling in the back seat. All these things can lead to you losing focus and taking your eyes off the road. Avoiding accidents often require a split-second decision to brake or swerve, so eliminating distractions is vital to increase your odds. For new drivers, it is recommended to limit passengers to Parents or Instructors for the first year.
Drowsiness can totally sneak up on you when you’re driving. For teens, driving late at night between 11pm-2am is a particularly dangerous time for falling asleep at the wheel. Here are some signs to watch for and do something about before you run into a tree or another car.
- You yawn a lot.
- You have trouble keeping your eyes open.
- You don’t remember the last few minutes or seconds.
- You drive over the rumble strips more than once.
- Your head or body jerks from the brink of falling asleep.
- You can’t concentrate.
- The car wanders from the road, or into another lane.
What to Do if You’re Falling Asleep
- Immediately slow down and pull off the road into a safe parking space. Lock your doors and take a nap, at least 20-45 minutes.
- Make a pit stop. Use the bathroom and get a Coke or coffee to drink.
- Sit up straight.
- If you have a passenger, talk to them.
- Play some music loudly. Try singing along.
- Roll your window all the way down, or turn your vent on cold full blast in your face.
What to Do If You’re in an Accident
Accidents happen to nearly every driver. Although accidents are a frightening and emotional situation, try and remember the steps below.
- Immediately call 911 if anyone is injured. If everyone’s okay, assess the scene.
- If possible, do not move any cars until photos have been taken.
- Call the police before calling anyone else. Sometimes other drivers will try to stop you from doing this, but in many states, it’s required that you report the accident.
- Call your parents if you need to.
- Get information from the other driver(s), including their name, address, phone number, license plate, and their insurance carrier.
- Take photos with your phone or your passenger’s phone. Be sure to get pictures of the position of the cars, the damage, and anything else that’s relevant. This can later help to prove how the crash happened. Keeping a disposable camera in your glove box will help with this if you don’t have a camera phone.
- Get the names and numbers of any witnesses to the accident.
- Write down a note for yourself, or make a voice memo for yourself while the details of the accident are fresh in your mind. This can help with questioning later.
Call your insurance agent, and process any claims in an appropriate amount of time.
Many accidents can be avoided just by having common sense. Don’t get behind the wheel if you’re mind is not fully alert.