The 10 Best Emergency Road Kits
The Properly Prepared Motorist
According to United States Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration reports, as of 2009, the last year for which comprehensive data is currently available, there were approximately 210 million licensed drivers in the United States. While the experienced and cautious driver can generally expect to get home safely each day through defensive and attentive driving, even the best driver in the world can't hope to avoid all vehicular issues.
Driving a car means accepting a certain level of risk, and at the extremes this includes accidents, which can be serious matters indeed. But it also means confronting the chance for a blown out tire, a torn timing belt, a cracked windshield, or an empty gas tank. It's important that you are always ready to deal with a car that is suddenly not working as it should.
If your vehicle experiences a sudden failure that necessitates you stop driving, if at all possible you should get your car off the road and out of the way of traffic as soon as possible. This helps ensure your safety, the safety of the other motorists with whom you share the road, and it minimizes the chance for damage to your vehicle as well.
One of the first and most important steps to staying safe once your vehicle is off the roadway (or once you determine that you cannot move it safely) is to decide whether or not you need assistance, and whether or not this help should come from the authorities or from a tow or service vehicle. If you are going to try to deal with your vehicle personally, a proper diagnosis of the issues must follow, as well as an assessment of the gear and supplies you have on hand to help. If you planned ahead properly, that means pulling out your roadside emergency kit.
Choosing A Kit For Common Vehicular Issues
Arguably the most important items in a good roadside emergency kit are those that help you to be readily seen from the greatest possible distance. Bright reflectors are a must when your car is stopped on or near a roadway; in fact, reflectors are even more important than flares, as even good slow burning flares will burn out.
While your vehicle's flashers are a good way to make your car easy to see in the darkness or the rain, you don't want to drain the battery too much. Make sure to carefully position reflectors to catch the lights of approaching cars, and set them well back from your location so that motorists have plenty of opportunity to slow down or steer around you.
While no halfway decent roadside service kit will come without jumper cables, it's important to make sure the cables you get are of a decent length. Cables much under eight feet in length might not span the distance across the front of your vehicle and another, thereby rendering them pointless. (Though two sets of jumper cables can be connected if needed.)
Also keep in mind that your phone may be an important lifeline during a roadside emergency, so consider bringing along an external battery pack to keep your device charged and ready to make calls as needed.
And do keep in mind that perhaps the most important roadside tools and gear are not going to be found in your kit: it's up to you to make sure that your vehicle's spare tire is intact and inflated, and that you have a working jack that you know how to use. Your car's manual should also be readily accessible, as you'll likely need to do some reading before you work on the issue at hand.
Choosing A Kit For Emergency Preparedness
If almost all of your driving takes place in the city or in a populated suburban environment, then a basic roadside preparedness kit is likely all you need to keep yourself safe and ready to deal with vehicular issues ranging from a flat tire to a dead battery to creating safe space for yourself, your passengers, and your vehicle as you wait for assistance with more involved issues.
However, if you often find yourself driving through more remote stretches of country (or in any area where help might not be readily forthcoming) then you need to keep a more thoroughly stocked emergency kit in your car. On any average day, basic needs like warmth and hydration can be happily taken for granted; if you find yourself stranded on a desolate highway in the middle of a winter night, then your vehicle's problems have just led you into a survival situation.
The well prepared traveler should choose a kit that comes stocked with items such as space blankets, water, food with a long shelf life, and a good first aid kit. The comprehensive vehicle emergency kit should also have at least two lights in case one fails and plenty of backup batteries.
Make sure not to consider any roadside emergency kit complete just because it includes numerous items. You should always be ready to add items you think you might need to a store bought kit, and don't be afraid to replace items in the kit with similar options you would feel more comfortable using.