8 Things You Should Have in Your Car for an Emergency
In today’s high-tech world, cars are virtually loaded with technology meant to keep drivers safe and on the road. Despite this, a study done by AAA found that the number of drivers who are left stranded on the roadside has not decreased—in fact, breakdowns are happening more often than ever. In fact, in 2015, AAA rescued a record-breaking 32 million drivers. According to Cliff Ruud, the managing director of AAA’s automotive solutions, in some cases, the technology designed to keep you on the road can make your vehicle even more vulnerable to a breakdown.
Your car’s battery can be run down by the electronic keyless ignition, and, in spite of early warning systems which tell drivers they are running low on gas, more than half a million drivers were forced to call AAA because they ran out of gas. All in all, the study found that vehicles which were less than five years old actually experienced a higher proportion of key and tire-related issues than older vehicles. And, because newer vehicle systems are so much more complex, one in five service calls require towing to a repair facility.
Being Prepared for a Roadside Emergency
A car emergency kit—or even something as simple as a flashlight—are things we rarely think much about until we need them, and by then it is too late. Because so many of us now drive a later model vehicle which comes with free roadside assistance—or we have a membership to an auto club—we are lulled into a false sense of security, and often forgo an emergency kit altogether. If, however, you have ever waited for hours by the side of the road for the auto club or tow truck to show up, you may have a better understanding of how having something as simple as a flashlight or other car necessities, could have made your life much easier.
Lest you think your chances of a breakdown are so slim you can forget about such things, remember that in any given year, AAA alone receives more than 30 million calls from stranded drivers. Unfortunately, vehicles do break down, and those breakdowns rarely occur in a well-lighted area, with great weather and perfect cell phone reception. You might find that a well-thought-out roadside emergency kit can significantly reduce the pain of a breakdown.
What Do I Need in My Car Emergency Kit?
While there are plenty of pre-packaged emergency kits on the market, you might do better to make up your own kit, which is not only tailored to the weather in your area, but also to your specific family. As an example, if you live in a tropical area, you are unlikely to need an ice scraper or a blanket, and if you travel with small children and/or pets, you will need to add specific items to your car emergency kit. There are, however, “must-haves” to include in your emergency car kit, such as:
1. Emergency lighting. A flashlight with extra batteries, as well as road flares and reflectors can keep you safe if you are stranded on the side of the road, especially at night.
2. A fully charged cell phone can make the difference between getting help quickly and not getting help at all.
3. A fire extinguisher. Of course, it is hoped you will never need a fire extinguisher, but it could potentially be a lifesaver.
4. A well-stocked first-aid kit should contain band-aids, adhesive tape, gauze, aspirin, antiseptic, and any specific items your family might need.
5. A tire gauge and a bottle of tire sealant can allow you to repair a flat quickly without having to change your tire, although you should also keep a spare tire, jack and tire tool in your car.
6. Jumper cables, a tow strap or rope, and a roll of duct tape (it really can fix almost everything!)
7. Drinking water and granola bars or other nonperishable snacks in the event you are seriously stranded.
8. A basic assortment of oil, antifreeze and brake fluids can allow you to get to a repair shop on your own, provided you know how to check the levels of those fluids in your car.
If you live in, or will be traveling through, an area which receives winter weather, you need to add a blanket, gloves, an ice scraper, a snow shovel, kitty litter and tire chains to your emergency kit. Being prepared is more than the Boy Scout motto—it can make a huge difference should your car ever break down unexpectedly.
The author of the article, John Newby is one of the shareholders of Tronfeld West & Durrett. Mr. Newby focuses his practice exclusively on personal injury law. He is a member of the Virginia State Bar, the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association, the Richmond Bar Association and the Million Dollar Advocates Forum. He currently serves on the Virginia Trial Lawyer’s Association Tort Law Legislative Subcommittee. Mr. Newby chairs the firm’s products liability section. Mr. Newby lives in Powhatan with his wife and daughter. When not working, he enjoys spending time outdoors, traveling with his family, and watching football.