No matter how carefully you drive, the odds are high that either your car will breakdown or you’ll get into an accident. When one of these events happens, you’ll need to have a proper set of emergency supplies in your car -- especially if the weather is bad and a tow truck can’t reach you right away.
Apart from a basic first aid kit, there are many other items you should keep on hand since drivers are often stranded by the side of the road for various time periods. Of course, in addition to the many items suggested below, you should always carry your fully-charged cell phone.
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Here’s a list of items the National Safety Council says we should always carry in our vehicles in case we’re stranded or in an accident.
Best Emergency Kit Supplies to Have on Hand for An Accident/Car Malfunction
- Jumper cables. These can really come in handy during bad weather, especially if you haven’t signed up with a towing group like the one offered by AAA;
- Spare tire, wheel wrench, and tripod-type jack. These are obviously needed to change a flat tire. You should always check on your spare tire at least once every three or four months to be sure it’s still properly inflated. If you can afford it and prefer one, you might consider getting one of the more convenient hydraulic jacks sold by auto supply stores. These fit right under the side of a vehicle and can make it much easier for anyone to “jack up” a vehicle while preparing to change a tire;
- Contact sheet with family/friend phone numbers. Consider clipping this list of phone numbers to part of your visor so it’s readily visible. You may even want to label it in case you’re incapacitated in an accident. Be sure to list your auto policy number, an immediate family member’s name and phone number so he or she can be notified -- or the names and numbers of one or two close friends. You should also list the phone numbers of at least two towing service companies. You may want to keep a spare copy of this list in your glove compartment – but be sure to keep one copy where it’s readily visible;
- Drinking water. This can really prove useful if you’re stranded somewhere after a collision. Always keep this drinking water in the interior part of your vehicle -- possibly on the floor in the back seat area;
- Cell phone and charger. If you like, you may want to keep an extra cell phone and accompanying charger in your car at all times – in addition to the one in your purse, pocket or briefcase;
- Spare clothing, shoes, socks and one or two blankets. After getting out and possibly changing a tire, you may be drenched and need dry clothing. Blankets are important in case you have to spend the night in your vehicle. Also, try to keep a raincoat and rain hat so you can wear them while trying to service your car;
- Shovel, snow brush/ice scraper, kitty litter or a container of sand in the trunk, etc. If your back wheels are stuck in the mud or other debris, pouring some sand or kitty litter right in front of them may provide you with added traction. A spare board or two kept in the trunk can also help in this same manner;
- A reflective vest, flares, compass, and basic toolkit. While these may seem like “extras,” keep in mind that if it’s dark outside, the vest may help prevent someone from hitting you while you’re trying to change a flat. Flares are also useful for this same purpose – be sure to position them a good distance behind you so that oncoming vehicles will know that someone is stranded (or needs help) up ahead. Every year, far too many people are hit and killed while just changing a flat tire. The compass will obviously help orient you to where you are if you’re uncertain -- and the auto repair toolkit should be self-explanatory;
- Reflective triangles and brightly colored cloth. You may want to use triangles in place of flares far behind your vehicle. Although you may want to try and repair your own vehicle, keep in mind that it’s often safest to just sit and wait in your locked car for help – unless you’ve been unable to move it far enough to the side of the road for this to be safe;
- “Non-perishable, high-energy foods.” Since you may have passengers with you, be sure to carry plenty of hard candies, unsalted nuts, dried fruits, and individually wrapped sandwich crackers. Always eat and replace this food every few months so it will be as fresh as possible;
- A basic first aid kit. This should contain special bandages, antiseptic solutions and possibly antibiotic ointment for treating minor cuts and bruises while you wait for other help.