While cruising down the interstate in the center lane you hear what sounds like a small explosion, a noise that is immediately accompanied by the violent shaking of your steering wheel. A tire has blown out and you need to get off the road—and fast! Your car’s stability control system has kicked in, but you still need to signal your intentions, move over to the right lane and make your way to the breakdown lane—as near to the road’s shoulder as possible.
At this point you’re safe, right? Unfortunately, you’re far out of danger as traffic zipping by at highway speeds can present a problem if drivers don’t see you or have little time to react when they come upon you. People have been injured or killed while on the side of the road, which means you must do everything in your power to avoid becoming a roadside emergency statistic. Before you take your next trip, review some of the things you should have in your emergency kit and know what to do after your car comes to a safe stop.
1. Cell Phone.
Today’s driver may have OnStar or some other in-dash roadside assistance service, but for the rest of us, a fully-charged cell phone can bring help faster than a Good Samaritan. Your cell phone may have a built-in “hot key” to alert AAA or some other auto club, or you may have a plan with a carrier where you can dial #HELP and be connected to someone who will send assistance to your location. If all else fails, dialing 9-1-1 should bring a patrol officer to you.
2. Your Location.
Where in the world are you? Specifically, what landmarks are nearby to help you identify your precise location? Cell phone operators can identify a general area where you are, such as between two of its towers, but a mile marker can help too. Consider exit signage and other descriptive information such as a unique billboard and natural distinctions, such as rock formations. Don’t forget that your smartphone has a GPS locator, which can pinpoint your precise location.
3. Warning Equipment.
If your car breaks down at night or at a time of the day when visibility has been reduced, then you need to alert other drivers. Flares or signage—such as emergency triangles—should be placed several hundred yards away, ideally well before motorists come upon your vehicle. In the absence of warning devices, your car should be as far over to the right as possible. Unless the area is dangerous or the weather inclement, everyone should evacuate the car and move away from the highway.
4. Spare Parts.
It’s too late to do anything about a broken belt before you take a trip, but there are some things you can bring along to help you get back on the road quickly. Besides the requisite working flashlight with fresh batteries, bring along a container of coolant, a can of motor oil, rags, spare belts and hoses, and jumper cables. Ensure that your spare tire is properly inflated and a jack is in place and functional. Include a blanket, gloves, water, and food if your journey takes you through a remote area or where climate conditions are unfavorable. A fire extinguisher can be helpful as can a rescue mirror if you need to signal for help from above.
Fix it and Go
The sooner your car is ready to hit the road again, the better. You’ll be back on your way and, almost as importantly, you won’t risk being rear-ended by a motorist, thereby becoming a roadside emergency statistic.
Photo attribution: Hedi B., Pixabay.com.