News Column

Teen Drivers Should Be Prepared for Any Car-Related Situation

May 19, 2013
Teen Drivers, prepared, cars

Driver's Education classes may teach the rules of the road, but what about when the car is off the road. Who do you call first, the police, insurance company or mom?

From an empty gas tank to a crunched fender, teens need to know what to do when the car is forced to stop. Before learning where the button is for the radio, they need to know the button for the hazard lights. But after that, what do they do? With any situation involving a stalled vehicle, drivers "must always be aware of their surroundings and what is going on around them," Decatur Police Sergeant Christopher Peters said. "If the person fears for their safety or they feel threatened, they should call the police."

Flat tire: "Pull completely off the road, even if it means destroying the tire," according to, a popular automotive resource guide. "Call roadside assistance and let that person change the tire." If the teen feels comfortable and knowledgeable in changing his or her own tire, he or she should be out of traffic and in plain sight of oncoming traffic. All drivers should know where the spare tire or inflation kit is before they find themselves on the side of the road. Routinely checking the tire pressure can reduce the risk of a tire blowout.

Ran out of gas: Call family, friends or a towing company. Some insurance companies or motor clubs offer roadside assistance. Teen drivers should be aware of any of these services available to their family. If unable to get help, wait for police to arrive, but officers do not typically have a gas can with them. "If the car they were driving ran out of gas and is a hazard in the roadway, they should call the police for assistance," Peters said.

And never leave the car in search of a gas station.

Fender bender: First, make sure no one is injured. But if a driver feels safety is an issue, stay in the vehicle. Call the police first. "If an adult is driving the other vehicle, he or she may try to intimidate a young driver. It's good to have an officer on hand to referee," suggests "Even if the police don't come to the scene, the accident has been reported."

The only discussion needed between drivers is to exchange insurance company information, license plate numbers, names, phone numbers and addresses. And any witnesses to the accident are helpful no matter who is at fault.

Stopped by police officer: As soon as flashing lights appear in the rearview mirror, slowly pull to the right. If a police officer follows, stay calm. "Turn off your car, roll down the window and keep your hands visible," suggests

"Make sure you always have card and registration," said Nan Kelley, State Farm Insurance staff agent. Many teens call the insurance company because they don't have their insurance card with them. A driver can get a ticket simply because "you don't have a card." Kelley said.

According to quoting Sgt. Jeffrey Nelson of the Wisconsin State Patrol, "If there were ever a time for a young person to suck up, this is it. Give "yes sir, no sir" answers. Do not lie. Do not argue. You can argue in court if you think the ticket is unfair. And leave your cellphone alone."

Dead battery: Just like the spare tire, jumper cables should be easily accessible to the teen driver. But of course, another car is also needed. Drivers should call for assistance from someone they know. The owner's manual should explain how to jump-start the car.

Parents should practice these scenarios before their children get their license and leave the driveway. "Sometimes these (situations) are hard calls to make," Peters said. "However, in these circumstances, I would rather they call the police rather than not."


(c)2013 the Herald & Review (Decatur, Ill.)

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Source: Copyright Herald & Review (Decatur, IL) 2013

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