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Emergency Items

Whether you have a flat tire or some other roadside emergency, you should have the following items in your car:

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  1. Always in Your Car
    • Disposable camera (to take photos of the vehicles and the scene)
    • Can of motor oil
    • Cones, warning triangles or emergency flares should be kept in the trunk
    • Empty gas can
    • Fire extinguisher
    • First aid kit
    • Flashlight with spare batteries

      WHN TIP: Batteries

      Don't use high-end batteries (lithium, ultra, etc.) for flashlights. Too much power will burn out the flashlight's bulb.

    • Fuses
    • Insurance: insurance card, phone number of agent, 1-800 number of company
    • Jack for tires

    • Jumper cables
    • Paper
    • Pen or pencil
    • Portable radio with spare batteries
    • Reflective vest
    • Sealant for small leaks in tires
    • Spare tire (be sure to have it checked each time you have your tires rotated)
    • Tire pressure gauge
    • Tool box with screwdrivers, wrenches and a small hammer (keep this in glove compartment)
    • Window scraper for ice
    • Print and store in your car: WhatHappensNow Get Help in case of an accident
    • .

  2. For You and Your Family
    • Blankets
    • Bottled water
    • Card with
      - information about family medical allergies or conditions
      - emergency phone numbers of family and friends
    • Cellular phone
    • List of contact numbers for law enforcement agencies
    • Pre-moistened towelettes
    • Road atlas, maps
    • Snack food

  3. Car Documentation
    • Car owner's manual
    • Car registration


Place a bright sticker on the child's car seat with:

  1. Name child responds to
  2. Parents' or guardians' names
  3. Best phone number of parent or guardian
  4. Two names/best phone numbers of local friends/relatives in case neither parent is able to care for the child
  5. List "Medical Must Knows":
    • Any allergies the child may have, especially to medication
    • Any medical conditions the child may have or have had in the past (such as diabetes, asthma etc.)
    • Insurance information if applicable
    • For a young baby, type of formula (if formula fed)
    • Name and phone number of child's pediatrician
    • Anything else you would like medical personnel to know about your child (fears she may have, favorite song that may help calm her, anything you can think of that would be helpful)
    • Read our Child Car Seat Safety and Kids and Car Safety articles for more car safety tips.


In the event of an emergency or after an accident, emergency personnel use your cell phone to look for "ICE" - who to contact In Case of an Emergency. This can save a lot of time in the attempt to retrieve lifesaving information (allergies, medication info, condition information, etc).

In your cell phone contact list, simply type the word ‘ICE’ followed by the name (ICE – Jerry) and phone number of the person to call in case of an emergency. You can enter multiple entries if you want, (ICE 1, 2, 3). Be sure to tell the person you ICE that you have ICE'd them. Tell family and friends about the importance of ICE.


Regular car maintenance is essential to avoiding future car trouble.

  1. Check your car's manual for a time-line for suggested maintenance (e.g. oil change, tire rotation, fan belts).
  2. Get a complete car check-up at least once a year - check out your tires, oil, fluids, alignment, suspension, brakes, etc.
  3. Monitor your safety devices, which are essential to accident prevention:
    • Brakes/brake fluid
    • Hazard lights
    • Headlights
    • Horn
    • Mirrors
    • Seatbelts
    • Tail lights
    • Turn signals
    • Windows (replace cracks)
    • Windshield/windshield wipers
    • If you notice any strange smells, smoke or sounds, get your car checked out by a professional.
  4. WHN TIP: Finding a Mechanic

    Hire a professional BEFORE car trouble starts. Read our articles - Finding a Mechanic and What Auto Technicians Do – for top tips on hiring and choosing the best mechanic for your car.


    Pay attention while driving. We've interviewed police officers from around the country — inattention was the number one cause for accidents. Statistics also support that claim: distracted driving accounts for nearly 80 per cent of the 6 million car crashes each year, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

    1. Examples of distracted driving include talking on a cell phone, eating or drinking, reading, putting on makeup or changing the radio or mp3 player while driving.
    2. Take the time to eat, drink, put on your makeup or make a phone call before driving.
    3. If you must use your cell phone, use a hands-free device when talking on the cell phone while driving.

      WHN TIP: Cell Phones

      Many states and local jurisdictions have restrictions regarding cell phones and driving. Check with your local police department about the laws in your area.

    4. Notice the other drivers around you — pay attention to the distance from their car to your car, their speed, if they're on the phone and how they drive.
    5. Wear your seatbelt.
    6. Obey all traffic laws and the speed limit.
    7. Apply the "two-second rule." Watch as the vehicle ahead passes a landmark — like a building or a telephone pole. Count "one-thousand-one, one- thousand-two." If you pass that same spot before getting to "two," you may be following too close and should consider slowing down.
    8. Slow down in severe weather conditions. Read our articles – Winter Driving and Driving in the Rain – for tips on preparing for and driving in different weather.
    9. Be careful at night time. Pull over if it’s too difficult to see or if you start to feel drowsy. Read our articles – Night Driving Safety and Prevent Drowsy Driving – for more prevention and driving safety tips.


    Let’s face it; insurance is helpful in case of an accident. Interview insurance companies for car insurance coverage.

    Sit down with your insurance agent. Read over your policy and ask about your car insurance coverage options.

    WHN TIP: Policies

    Review your policies each year. Remember to update your policies if there is a new driver or additional accessories added to your car (stereo, car alarm, detailing, etc.)

    WHN Reader TIP: Gap Insurance

    Gap insurance can insure for the difference between what you might owe on a vehicle and what an insurance company might says it's worth. One of my major lessons I learned was about gap insurance. I did not have it and was left with several thousand dollars to pay. -- Autumn M., Brooklyn, NY

    Need more? Here are tips from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Visit our Links section for more car safety web sites.

Thank you ...

A special thank you to the industry professionals, lawyers, insurance agents, first responders and people who gave us their time, insight and real-life advice.


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