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Thursday, February 12, 2009

How to Handle a Vehicle Emergency - Procedures, Preparedness, Safety Kit

Cars never seem to break down on a convenient schedule. That flat tire late at night or that overheated engine on a deserted country road can be more than annoying; it can be dangerous. Vehicle emergencies aren't limited to mechanical problems. Sudden, violent storms can create havoc. The big winter storm in March 1993 found thousands of motorists stranded in the snow as highways in Georgia, and the Carolinas shut down. Since we can't schedule our emergencies at a more convenient time, every driver should be prepared by knowing how to deal with emergencies and should keep an emergency kit in their car at all times.

The best defense against a breakdown on the side of the road is to ensure your vehicle is well maintained and that oil and fluids are changed or topped off. Worn tires should be replaced. Check your tires by inserting a penny into the tread; if the top of Abe Lincoln's head can be seen your tread is too worn. Check your tire's pressure; correct tire pressure is printed on the tire’s side or in the owner's manual. Make sure that your spare tire is full and you have an operating jack and lug wrench. Keep the gas tank full and don't try to push it to the next exit when your gas is running low.

The first thing to remember when your vehicle is stuck or disabled is your personal safety. If possible, the vehicle should be removed as far off the side of the road as possible. A large number of crashes happen when drivers either don't see or don't realize that the car ahead is stopped or because they look at the disabled vehicle instead of watching the road ahead. Activate your emergency flashers, then, if you have flares or a reflective emergency triangle, place them 100 to 200 feet behind the vehicle to give other drivers warning of a problem up ahead. Raise the hood to indicate a need for help and tie a white cloth or "help" sign to the antennae.

Since so many crashes involve cars on the side of the road, it is best to leave the vehicle and stand as far off the roadway as possible while waiting for help. Trying to repair a vehicle or change a tire right next to the roadway can be extremely dangerous.

Vehicle Emergency Kits

As indicated above, the best and most important item in your emergency kit should be a cell phone with a fully charged battery. Make sure you keep a charger cord in your car and that your battery is full.

Your emergency kit's contents will depend on where you live and drive. At a minimum, a basic emergency kit should contain:

- Jumper cables (the longer and heavier duty, the better)

- Two 30 minute flares

- A reflective triangle

- A “Help” sign or white cloth to tie to the antennae

- A flashlight with extra batteries. (small LED flashlights are tiny, long lasting, and surprisingly bright)

- A small tool kit including screw drivers, pliers, needle-nose/wire cutters and a small knife

- Two quarts of oil, gallon of water and windshield washer fluid

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