In this age of global interconnectivity, whenever you drive with a phone in your car, you also have maps, directions, a camera and vast access to Internet information and contacts. So you’re less likely to be left in the lurch in case of an emergency or your car breaking down. Even so, there are some important items to keep in your car — starting with your cell phone.
That said, avoid talking or texting on your phone while driving, since distracted driving can be fatal. And keep in mind that even a cell phone may not connect you to the world at large in all cases, since in some remote areas cell phone service is interrupted.
That’s why you may need a weather radio with a hand-crank for power. These can be found for around $13 at some stores. Also vital may be a an old-fashioned printed map, if your phone’s maps or GPS don’t work
Yet even though your phone can provide vital links to the world in a pinch, they won’t help you if they run out of juice. Keep a mobile device charger in your car for recharging your phone if necessary. In fact, some people charge their phones at all times in their car while they drive. Solar chargers also may be available.
As for other items to have handy, keep in mind that many things won’t be needed if your vehicle is road-ready. Make certain that your tires, your engine’s battery and other car parts are functioning properly, and that you have enough gas and oil. You are less likely to be stuck somewhere and need emergency items if your car is fully road-ready.
Since not all car breakdowns can be anticipated or avoided, one vital item to have on hand is jumper cables. If you don’t have these stashed away in your trunk, you’ll be dependent on the kindness of strangers who do have them to stop and help you start your car when your battery dies.
You also can keep an emergency battery booster in your vehicle, to start your car without jumper cables.
Also have a flashlight with fresh batteries or a mini-lantern on hand. If your car is disabled on a dark road, these can be especially important, even beyond turning on your emergency flashers. You may need illumination to fix a tire, or to walk a mile down the road to get a gallon of gas if your tank is dry.
If your car is disabled at night, you also should have reflecting triangles or flares to illuminate your vehicle’s position and to signal other drivers.
Speaking of that, be sure to keep an empty — repeat, empty — gas container which can hold at least one gallon. That way you’ll be ready if your car does stall for lack of fossil fuel. But don’t keep gasoline inside such a container in your trunk. That can backfire in a big way, as in a rear-end collision. Just keep an empty gas can or container, which you can fill only in an emergency — and empty immediately afterward.
Also make sure you have a spare tire in reasonably good condition, a tire jack and tire iron for changing a flat tire, and a tire sealer and tire inflater which can fix a flat tire well enough to get you to a garage for a tire change.
In severe winter weather, you may need an ice scraper, a snow brush, a blanket and a piece of carpet or cardboard to lay under tires for traction. Kitty litter also serves a traction function. And, if trapped in your vehicle, you may need a seatbelt cutter and a window breaker.
Also make sure your car’s owner’s manual is always available, since you may need it to explain ways to run your vehicle in a pinch. Chances are you’ve rarely if ever consulted the manual — but in an emergency, you may need to do so.
Also, on your phone or elsewhere, keep numbers for an auto repair shop and for roadside assistance services.
How does your emergency checklist look now? Is it complete?
No, not if you don’t include such possible necessities as a first-aid kit, a tire pressure gauge, work gloves, a rope, tissues, paper towels, plastic grocery bags, containers filled with water, energy bars, matches or other fire-starters, a fire extinguisher, spare change (perhaps a roll of quarters to pay tolls or parking meters), an umbrella, a pencil and paper, windshield wiper fluid, duct tape, WD-40, multi-tool kits and even a shovel.
You can imagine how these might be useful — and you never know when such things might be vital in a roadside emergency. But they won’t do you any good if they’re in a closet at home.
Let your car’s trunk or glove box serve as your traveling closets, and be prepared for anything in your home on the road.
If “anything” means another driver causes a car wreck injuring you or a loved one, notify Jim Adler & Associates after you’ve reached safety. You may need a car accident attorney to fight for your legal rights.
In fact, among your emergency items for the road should be our law firm’s web address, www.jimadler.com, and one of our phone numbers, including 800-505-1414.