Packing travel emergency kits for your car will help you stay safe and minimize the inconvenience of an unexpected breakdown. Keep the following items in your trunk for everyday travel and extra insurance during longer trips.
Flashlight: If your car suffers an electrical malfunction, a flashlight may be the only light you have on a dark highway. Invest in a good one and make sure the batteries are fresh.
Jumper cables: Dead batteries are common, so a good set of jumper cables is a must to get you out of a jam and back on the road.
Flares: As many as one-third of all highway deaths are the result of pedestrians, so making yourself visible in the event of a breakdown is very important. Buy a few fresh road flares for your travel emergency kit, and store them in a waterproof container.
Reflective triangles: Reflective triangles are another means of bringing attention to your location if your car breaks down, and they have the advantage of being visible day or night.
Fire extinguisher: Fire extinguishers are rated using a letter system that identifies what kind of fire they can fight. For your car's emergency kit, you'll need a "B-C"-rated extinguisher, which means it's good for both flammable liquids (like grease or gas) and electrical fires. These kinds of fires are common with cars and can be tough to put out.
First aid kit: Look for good-quality first aid kits stored in a waterproof box. If you already have one, make sure all items have been restocked.
Water: Bringing water along to drink is more important than food. Most roadside emergencies can be resolved within a couple of hours, but that's still enough time to become dehydrated.
Cell phone: Make sure you've got a phone on board in case you need to place a 911 call, reach your roadside service provider or make other emergency contacts.
With your travel emergency kits packed in your trunk, you'll be prepared for surprise developments and safer on the road. Here are some additional tips for being safe and getting help quickly in the event of a breakdown:
- Get far off the road: If your car breaks down, don't panic. Grab the steering wheel firmly and immediately look for a safe place to pull as far off the road as possible. Avoid blind curves or parking below the crest of a hill where another car won't be able to see you until it's too late. If the engine dies, remember that the car's remaining momentum is all you may have to get to a safe place, so brake only if necessary and use whatever power the car has left to get well off the road.
- Mark your location: Once you've pulled off the road and before trying to figure out what's wrong with your car, use emergency triangles light sticks or flares to mark your location. Place the first one well behind where you've stopped and place others every 50 feet from the first. Use caution and watch for traffic while setting up these markers, because other drivers aren't expecting to see a pedestrian on the road!
- Raise the flag: If you need assistance, tie a white cloth to your car where other motorists can see it. A white flag is the universal signal for motorists in distress, and once it's posted, other drivers will stop to help or call 911 from their cell phones. Good places to display your white flag include the antenna, door handle or between the top of a window and the doorframe.
- Stay in your car: Though staying in your car is a judgment call, most experts say inside your car is the safest place to be. Pedestrians wandering on highways are walking targets for other drivers and are at high risk of being hit. If you've managed to get your car to a safe place, stay there until help arrives. However, if the car has come to rest in a dangerous place like the middle of traffic or an area where crime is a concern (such as a desert highway at night), you might want to leave your car and get out of sight. When police arrive, you can reveal your location and ask for help.