15 May What You Should Have in Your Vehicle Safety Kit
When you’re on the road, you have to take a page from the Boy Scouts and “Be Prepared” for any situation. One of the best ways is having a well-stocked and maintained emergency kit.
If you’ve been driving for any length of time, it’s likely that you’ve experienced a roadside emergency — a flat, a breakdown, or even a crash. Being prepared to handle an emergency before it happens will help you meet it calmly and according to your fleet’s safety policies when one occurs.
Mental preparedness is part of the equation, but having a thoroughly stocked and maintained vehicle safety kit will give you the tools you need to deal with many situations that are likely to occur while you’re on the road. Here’s the basic equipment you should stock to meet the most common situations:
Reflective triangles and road flares: If you break down on the road, you want to make sure other drivers can see you. If you’re able to safely move your vehicle to the side of the road, use reflective triangles to alert approaching vehicles that there is a breakdown or crash ahead and that they should use caution. No matter the time of day or visibility conditions, pulling over on the side of the road can be dangerous, so make sure that the triangles are reflective to increase visibility when car light beams strike the surface.
Road flares are another means to indicate to other drivers that a vehicle is in distress and that caution should be used. Flares can be used in all types of weather, and don’t require electricity or a battery to be ignited.
First aid supplies: Not just for vehicle-related crashes, first aid supplies can come in handy if you get a headache or experience a minor cut while in the field. Make sure your first aid kit is tailored to your region, i.e. drivers in warmer climates may need sunblock and bug spray, while drivers in cold climates may want to include blankets and hand warmers, in addition to the basics.
Regardless of where you drive, all of the following items should be standard in your vehicle safety kit:
- Adhesive bandages
- Hand sanitizer
- Antibiotic ointment
- Over-the-counter pain reliever
Keep in mind that unless you have medical expertise, you should never administer any medical treatments in the wake of an accident. If you, another driver, or any passengers are injured in a crash, call 911 and wait for help to arrive.
Optional equipment: The previous items will provide you with the essentials in an emergency, but you may want to consider some additional equipment that will help increase your safety and make you better able to respond to an incident, including:
- A reflective vest
- Fire extinguisher
- Portable phone charger
- Non-perishable snacks
- A small amount of emergency cash for gas or other items
- Basic tools: screwdriver, wrench, and/or pliers
- Ice scraper, cat litter or road salt (if you’re driving in snowy areas)
Equipment for breakdowns and flat tires: Consult your fleet’s policy about having jumper cables as part of your vehicle emergency kit. Some fleets have roadside assistance contracts to help drivers in the case of a dead battery, and incorrectly using the cables can damage your assigned vehicle.
In addition, an increasing number of vehicle models are no longer equipped with a spare tire (in 2015 it was about 36% of models), so check to see if your vehicle has a spare tire. If your assigned vehicle does not have a spare tire, find out if it is equipped with an electric tire inflator kit or run-flat tires, which allow the vehicle to drive up to 50 miles at 50 mph. Again, consult with your fleet manager or your fleet safety policy about how you should handle a flat tire if and when it occurs.
Make sure that you check the contents of your kit at regular intervals — for instance the beginning or end of each quarter or the change of seasons — batteries wear out, medical supplies get used up, and emergency snacks become stale (or get eaten). Check that everything works and is properly stowed and accessible in the case of an emergency.