Most people in the U.S. and California rely on their cars for transportation and may spend numerous hours each week behind the wheel. Driving a car comes with risks, and people should be prepared in case an emergency happens. While you might already keep your proof of insurance, registration, and owner’s manual in your vehicle, there are other essentials that you should also keep in your vehicle even if you have roadside assistance. Having these items in your car can help you if something goes wrong with your vehicle, or you are involved in an accident with another car or a single-car accident because of the weather or another incident.
- First Aid Supplies
You should keep a first aid kit in your vehicle. You can either purchase a preassembled kit or create your own. Make sure to have over-the-counter pain relievers, antibiotic ointment, bandages in several sizes, allergy medicine, cotton swabs, gauze, medical tape, and hand sanitizer. It is also a good idea to carry a thermometer, medications you and your family take regularly, and a heating pad. These items can come in handy if you are involved in an accident or are forced off the road by severe weather and someone is injured until help arrives.
- Safety Supplies
It is also a good idea to carry safety supplies to keep you safe if you have to give first aid to someone else. Make sure to have wipes, face shields, gloves, and masks. These types of items can help to prevent the spread of disease if you have to give CPR or bandage a wound that is bleeding.
Keeping a case of water or a few bottles in your vehicle can help if you are stranded. You can also use it to fill your vehicle’s radiator in case your car overheats so that you can make it to a service station.
- Flashlight and Batteries
While your cell phone likely has a flashlight app built-in, it is a good idea to keep a waterproof, heavy-duty flashlight in your car. You don’t want to use up your cell phone’s battery if you have an emergency. Having a flashlight can make it easier to check under the hood at night to see what has gone wrong. It can also help you if you need to change a flat tire or flag down a passerby for help. Make certain to also carry extra batteries for your flashlight.
If you are stranded and hungry, the experience of waiting for help to arrive can be even worse. Make sure that you have snacks in your vehicle that do not need to be refrigerated, including nuts, granola bars, dried fruit, jerky, crackers, and other items. Having snacks available can help you get through emergency situations when you are lost or stuck.
- Emergency Flares
You should keep emergency flares in your car. Having your vehicle stall on a busy highway or blind curve can be a scary experience. Other drivers might not be able to see you even with your hazard lights flashing in congested traffic. If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident, it is also important to alert other oncoming motorists, so they do not crash into the involved vehicles. After calling for help, you should set out reflective orange or red flares to warn other motorists so that they have time to slow down and avoid you.
- Tool Kit
It is always a good idea to have a few basic tools in case you have car trouble. This is especially true if your car breaks down when you’re in a rural area far away from a repair shop or service station. Keep tools and fluids in your car, including antifreeze, brake fluid, oil, pliers, a screwdriver, a pocketknife, a lug nut wrench, and tire gauge in your car. Other good items to have on hand include tire sealant and a collapsible shovel.
- Spare Tire
You should always have a spare tire in your vehicle whenever you drive. You also need to make sure that you know how to change a tire if you have a flat or blowout. Make sure that your spare tire is in good working condition, and make sure you know how to safely use a jack and other tools to remove the flat or blown-out tire and replace it with your spare tire.
- Jumper Cables
If your vehicle’s battery dies, having jumper cables in your car can be a lifesaver and help you to get back on the road quickly. Make sure you know how to properly attach your cables to the negative and positive terminals of your battery and another individual’s battery. You should also know how to properly disconnect your cables once your battery has been revived to avoid potential injuries.
- Paper Towels
Having a roll of paper towels in your car can come in handy. You can use paper towels to clean up spills, wipe the oil from your hands, or soak up the liquid.
- Phone Charger
It is a good idea to have both a charging cord to use in your vehicle and a wall charger and cord to use in case you are taken to the hospital. A battery pack is another good idea to help keep you connected with your loved ones in case something goes wrong.
You don’t need to carry a lot of cash with you, but it is smart to have a little to use for tolls, parking, or gas if a gas station’s power is down.
- Warm Clothing and Blankets
You should have a change of warm clothing and a blanket in your trunk, especially if you will be traveling during cold weather or in the mountains. Having warm clothing and a blanket available can be helpful if your vehicle breaks down, and you are left without a functioning heater.
- Emergency Information
You should also have a list of emergency information in your vehicle. Write down any allergies or medical conditions that people in your vehicle might have in case of an emergency. You should also have a list of emergency contacts with names, emails, and phone numbers, including your close family members, your doctor, insurance agent, and a good auto accident attorney in case you are involved in an accident. Having a short list of steps to take after an accident is also a good idea. Many people are confused during the immediate aftermath of a wreck, so having a list can help you to avoid forgetting anything you need to do.
- Pen and Paper or Smartphone
Having a pen and paper available in your vehicle can allow you to write messages for people outside of your car with whom you need to communicate but do not want to roll your window down. A notebook also provides you with a way to jot down notes about what happened in a car accident right after it happens while the memories are still fresh. Alternatively, you can use your smart phone to photograph and document the car accident scene, jot down notes, and photograph the driver’s license and insurance card for any involved vehicles.
When you are assembling the supplies to carry in your vehicle, you need to take into account your trunk space. If your vehicle is small, you might not have enough space to carry all of the above-listed supplies. However, you should make sure to carry enough items to help you stay safe if your car breaks down or you have an accident. You should plan accordingly, and make sure to carry items that you might otherwise overlook but that could prove crucial in case your experience an emergency while driving.