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What Safety Items Should You Keep in Your Car?

hatch back sedan parked on a dirt road with the trunk open

If there’s one thing a vehicle owner can always expect, it’s the unexpected. Whether you’re commuting to work in Phoenix or taking a cross-country road trip, you never know when your plans may be waylaid suddenly by a roadside emergency. What safety items should you keep in your car in case of an emergency? We’ll look at some tips to help you create an effective emergency preparedness kit to keep in your vehicle. While you may hope you’ll never have to use your vehicle emergency kit, it’s always better to be prepared than to wish you were.

The car accident lawyers at Buckingham & Vega Law Firm’s Phoenix, AZ office are always available to help after you’ve been involved in an accident. But we also believe strongly in doing our part to keep Arizona’s roads as safe as possible for each and every motorist. You’ll find information below about what to keep in your car for emergencies, the most common roadside emergencies motorists encounter, and where to find roadside assistance in the state of Arizona.

What to Keep in Your Car for Emergencies

The National Safety Council (NSC) advises vehicle owners to put together an emergency supply kit that can be used in case the vehicle breaks down, becomes stuck, or strands you in location far from the supplies you need. The NSC recommends keeping your emergency preparedness kit in the trunk of your vehicle and checking it at least once every six months, making sure to discard any expired or damaged products. An effective emergency kit will include supplies to help you fix foreseeable problems your vehicle may encounter, protect yourself and your vehicle from harm, provide means of contact, and allow you to safely survive if stranded for a significant period of time.

Your kit should include the following items:

  • Properly-inflated spare tire
  • Wheel wrench
  • Tripod jack
  • Jumper cables
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Toolkit or multipurpose utility tool
  • Reflective triangles, flares, brightly-colored cloth, or other objects to make your vehicle visible
  • Compass
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Duct tape
  • Cat litter for added traction on slippery surfaces
  • First aid kit (including gauze, tape, bandages, antibiotic ointment, aspirin, blanket, nonlatex gloves, scissors, hydrocortisone, thermometer, tweezers, and instant cold compress)
  • Non-perishable, high-energy foods (unsalted nuts, trail mixes, granola bars or power bars, hard candy, dried fruit or vegetables, nut butters, meat jerky, or other easily-accessible food items)
  • Bottled drinking water
  • Reflective vest to wear if you need to walk somewhere for help
  • Rain poncho
  • Warm blanket or outerwear
  • Phone charger that can plug into your vehicle
  • Shovel
  • Scraper and brush for snow or ice (especially when traveling in cold-weather areas)
  • Extra windshield washer fluid

In addition to the supplies kept in the trunk for emergency situations, the NSC advises that motorists keep important information easily available in their phones. This may include auto insurance policy information, an emergency contact list, family phone numbers, and the phone number of a towing company. Even if you aren’t able to access internet or phone service on your mobile device, this information can be helpful for you or another person assisting you in an emergency situation.

Most Common Roadside Emergencies

Even if you subscribe to a roadside assistance service plan like those offered by AAA, Progressive, OnStar, Geico, Allstate, or AARP, you can never be too prepared. It’s important to know which types of roadside emergencies most frequently stall motorists in their travel. Knowing the most common types of driving emergencies can help you as a vehicle owner take steps to prevent them.

Some of the most common roadside emergencies driver encounter include:

  • Tire blowout
  • Brake failure
  • Dead battery
  • Overheated engine
  • Getting stuck due to poor road conditions, or weather-related issues like ice, snow, mud, or flooding
  • Getting locked out of the vehicle
  • Running out of fuel
  • Hitting an animal

Some of these emergencies, like running out of fuel or locking your keys in the car, are much more easily prevented than others. Some accidents are more difficult to anticipate, like hitting a wild animal crossing the highway. A healthy combination of preventative maintenance, preparedness in case of emergency, and careful, attentive driving is the best way to avoid and handle roadside emergencies.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety (ADPS) urges drivers to take steps to reduce their chances of breaking down on the side of the road. Many people find themselves in roadside emergency situations due to entirely preventable circumstances. In order to avoid these types of emergencies, the ADPS recommends that motorists:

  • Always keep at least a quarter of a tank of fuel in your vehicle
  • Regularly check tire pressure
  • Replace worn tires immediately
  • Perform regular preventative maintenance on your vehicle
  • Carry the tools necessary for minor repairs
  • Carry water and fluid for the vehicle’s radiator
  • Avoid any road debris that can harm the vehicle and cause it to break down
  • Prepare for the worst in case you are stranded for an extended period of time

Roadside Motorist Assistance in Arizona

The ADPS’s Roadside Motorist Assistance (RMA) program exists to help stranded motorists get back on the road or find safe alternative arrangements. Individuals who work for the RMA program are non-law enforcement agents qualified to carry out a number of vehicle repairs and roadside services. If you are stranded on a highway in Arizona, RMA troopers may be able to help you:

  • Diagnose and repair minor vehicle problems
  • Change wheels and tires
  • Provide fuel
  • Bring emergency supplies such as drinking water, a fire extinguisher, or first aid supplies
  • Call for a tow truck
  • Remove your vehicle from an unsafe location
  • Provide a short ride
  • Eliminate debris or other road hazards

If you break down on a highway in Arizona, call 911 immediately to notify RMA troopers of your location and condition. If possible, try to move your vehicle far to the side of the road and out of the way of traffic. Use the emergency flares or red triangles from your vehicle’s emergency kit to make other drivers aware of your presence. This is especially critical at night or under conditions of poor visibility (fog, rain, or other inclement weather).

If you have further questions about staying safe on Arizona’s roads, please feel welcomed to reach out to our Phoenix, AZ office. We offer free consultations to individuals and families who have been injured in dangerous vehicle situations caused by another party. We may be able to help you recover compensation for losses you suffered.

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