Winter is coming. That’s pretty hard to think about when just a week or two ago we had some 78-and-sunny weather. Today, however, the weather decided it was fall again, and driving on the highway was like driving through an ice-cold hurricane. Michigan is the one place on the planet where you can get sunburn one day and frostbite the next.
With winter comes crappy driving conditions, for Michiganders at least. The thought of icy roads terrifies me. My biggest fear, other than hitting a deer, is spinning out on the freeway. And I’m also not looking forward to digging my car out of the snow each morning, or getting stuck. These things just come with the territory in the Mitten State.
Luckily, I’ve never been stranded by my car – not even when I drove a junker. I’ve never had the misfortune of getting a flat tire on the road. I’ve never been in a bad accident. And I’ve never run out of gas or had my car break down. I’m going to chalk that up to good luck and a whole lot of excellent car maintenance on the part of my family members. But should one of these things happen, I know I’ll be prepared. How can you prepare for a roadside disaster? Here’s a list of everything you should keep in your car all year long, but especially in bad driving seasons, that can make you safer and prepared for anything.
- Cell phone – Don’t talk while driving. Don’t text while driving. And absolutely don’t surf Facebook while driving. When used appropriately, a cell phone can be the single most handy piece of equipment in an emergency situation. Being able to phone for help and let someone know where you are is your ticket to safety. You should also be sure to purchase a cell phone charger to keep in your car.
- First-aid kit – Having a first-aid kit handy can help treat wounds or problems resulting from an accident, or any problems that simply arise when you’re on the go. There are several basic items you should keep in supply including, bandages, sanitizer, and pain relievers. You can buy pre-assembled first-aid kits for your car, but if you’d like to save a few dollars, you can easily assemble your own. Check out WebMD’s website for this great slideshow about first-aid essentials.
- Warning lights – If you’re stranded on the side of the road, especially at night, you’ll need to let other drivers know to keep an eye out for your car. That’s why it’s important to keep a warning light, flares, or reflective hazard triangles handy. In order to give other vehicles time to move over, set out multiple flares an adequate distance away from the rear of your car. The first flare should be placed at least 100 paces away from your car, toward oncoming traffic.
- Tire pressure gauge – You need to be able to check tire pressure on the go, for those times you have to refill a slightly deflated tire or change a spare. As a preventative measure, you should keep one of these around and assess your tire pressure about once a month.
- Jack and lug wrench – Not that I’d ever in a million years know how to use these items, they’re a pretty good idea to have in your car just in case you need to change a tire. It’s probably a good idea to familiarize yourself with this equipment before you need to use it so you don’t find yourself begging for help on the side of the highway when you can’t figure out how to operate the jack.
- Jumper cables – In the event that your car battery runs out, jumper cables, along with the help of another car, can get you up and running in no time.
- Flashlight – For doing work on your car in the dark, or just as a safety precaution for late-night emergencies, it’s a good idea to keep a flashlight in your car.
- Camera – If you get into an accident, you will want to photo-document any damage to your car or the other cars involved. It’s also a good idea to take pictures of the accident scene and license plates of all the cars.
- Pen and paper– If you are ever unfortunate enough to get in an accident, make sure you have a pen and paper handy so you can exchange information with the other driver. When I got in a car accident about 6 months ago (coincidentally, on my birthday and no, not my fault!) the other driver and I were pretty clueless about what we should do. Luckily I had a smart phone and Googled it, but just in case you don’t have those resources available, know that there are certain pieces of information you should collect before leaving the scene of the accident. According to Geico, here are the things you should write down:
- Names, phone numbers, and addresses of all car occupants
- Names, phone numbers, and addresses of any potential witnesses
- Location of the accident (address, intersection, etc.)
- Insurance information of other driver including name of company, policy number, and phone number.
- Money – Keep at least $20 in your car to use for emergencies only. You never know when you’ll need a pay phone, or a gallon or two of gas, or even food. This is not, however, to be used to grab a quick McChicken from McDonald’s.
- Hat, gloves, blanket, and other warm-fuzzies – If you live somewhere where it gets cold, it’s important to keep these items in your car in case you have to shut off the engine and wait. If you’re stranded in a snowstorm, you want to avoid frostbite, so stay covered.
You never want anything to happen to you or your car while you’re out and about, but it doesn’t hurt to be prepared. By making sure you have all these in your roadside emergency kit, you’ll be saving yourself a lot of time and stress. What safety gear do you like to keep in your car? Let us know in the comments below!