Being involved in a traffic accident is a common, but nonetheless stressful experience for any driver. If you’re not prepared with the right items in your vehicle at the time of an accident, this experience can be even more stressful. Being unprepared for an accident can enhance the negative impact and stress of the event.
Keeping the right items in your car ensures you’re ready for anything. There are many all-in-one preparation kits on the market that claim to prepare you for an accident. However, these kits can be overpriced and might not include a comprehensive selection of items you may need.
Review this guide to learn what items you should keep in your car at all times so you’re ready for any type of unexpected traffic incident, and can tend to your personal safety and immediate risks before you contact a car accident lawyer.
1. First-Aid Kit
A fully-stocked first-aid kit helps you treat minor injuries that may occur in a car accident. You can purchase a kit that’s already stocked with supplies, but the Mayo Clinic suggests that you ensure your first-aid kit includes everything you might need, such as:
- Antibiotic ointment.
- A rubber tourniquet.
- A first-aid manual.
- Adhesive tape.
Consider additional items you may need if you’re involved in a traffic accident with injuries, such as a blanket for keeping an injured person in stable condition while waiting on an ambulance.
A pre-assembled first aid kit costs between $10 and $50, depending on the complexity of the items included. You can find these kits through online retailers or at local home improvement stores. If you use an item in the kit, be sure to replace it right away.
2. Auto Escape Tool
Auto-escape tools help you exit the vehicle if you can’t get the door open. This could happen if the vehicle is submerged in water or if the door is damaged and you can’t get out quickly. There are different tools that would be helpful, such as:
- Window breakers: Any object that’s heavy, sharp, and blunt will help you break the window in case of an emergency.
- Seatbelt cutters: Scissors or a hook blade will help cut the seatbelt off for you if it won’t budge after a traffic accident.
- Multitools: There are several multitools on the market that combine a window breaker and seatbelt cutter for use in both scenarios.
Depending on the quality of a window breaker, you could spend $10 to $50, and seatbelt cutters are usually in the same price range. An auto-escape multitool costs about $20 to $70 and you can find any of these tools through online retailers or at auto parts stores.
3. Fire Extinguisher
Anything can happen in a car accident, including a fire. If your car or another vehicle catches on fire, a fire extinguisher will help mitigate the situation.
While it’s safe to keep an extinguisher in your car, extreme hot or cold temperatures may affect the fire extinguisher’s performance. Purchase a high-quality extinguisher that can handle these extreme temperatures without becoming compromised.
A small fire extinguisher costs about $20 to $30. You can find them through online retailers or home improvement stores.
4. Road Flares
If your vehicle is inoperable after an accident, it’s important to alert other drivers that your disabled car is on the road, especially at night. When you set up road flares around your vehicle, other drivers can see it more easily and avoid it until you can get it towed.
Most modern road flares are LED so you don’t need to worry about complicated instructions or lighting a flame. You’ll spend $20 to $60 for middle-market road flares and you can buy them online or at auto parts stores. Regularly test the functionality of your flares and replace the ones that stop working.
5. Jumper Cables or a Battery Charger
If your battery dies or is compromised in a traffic accident, it may need a jumpstart to begin working again. Carrying jumper cables or a battery charger in your vehicle is crucial so you can move the car to a safe place and off the road as you wait for assistance.
If you opt to carry jumper cables, you’ll need assistance from another vehicle to jump your battery. With a battery charger, you can jumpstart the battery without help from another party. However, you must keep the battery charger charged and fully functioning to ensure it’s ready to help out if your car battery dies.
Jumper cables only cost about $20 to $35 depending on their quality while a battery charger costs anywhere from $45 to $150. You can find these accessories online or at any auto parts or home improvement store.
6. Backup Car Fluids
If your car loses fluid and becomes inoperable or unsafe to drive, it can be a hassle trying to get it home or to the shop. Keeping extra car fluids in your vehicle is helpful if you’re in this situation. Store the following extra fluids in your vehicle at all times:
- Brake fluid.
- Coolant for your air conditioning.
- Power steering fluid.
- Transmission fluid.
- Radiator fluid.
Also, keep extra windshield washer fluid on hand in case you run out. Depending on the size of the containers of fluids you purchase, you may spend $20 to $50 on extra car fluids. You can find these fluids at any auto parts store. Be sure their containers are air-tight before storing them in your vehicle.
If you’re involved in a traffic accident at night, you can use a flashlight to survey the damage. Without light, you may not see everything that happened to your vehicle to include on the police report.
Purchase a flashlight that’s waterproof and durable, just in case you’ll be looking at vehicle damage in the rain. You won’t have to worry about changing batteries with a solar-powered flashlight. However, it may not get enough sun and fully charge if you store it in your vehicle. A durable solar-powered flashlight costs about $20 to $30.
If you opt for a flashlight that’s battery-powered, check the batteries from time to time and replace them when the light gets dull. A bright battery-powered flashlight will cost anywhere from $20 to $100, depending on the quality. You can purchase flashlights at home improvement stores or online.
8. Food and Water
After a traffic accident, you could wait hours for the police to come and make a report depending on your location. During this time, if you have food and water stashed in your car, it’ll be easier for you and your passengers to stay comfortable.
When choosing the food to store in your vehicle, only consider options that have good nutritional value and long shelf life. Nuts, granola bars, and beef jerky are good options that will fill you up and stay fresh for a long time.
Keep a few generous servings of food and water in your vehicle, or enough to last an entire day, if needed. You shouldn’t need to spend too much on extra food and water, which you can buy at any local grocery store or pharmacy.
9. A Spare Cell Phone
Technology and transportation go hand in hand. You probably carry your phone with you everywhere you go. However, if you have an old cell phone you don’t use anymore, consider keeping it in your vehicle. Storing an old cell phone in your car is helpful if your current phone’s battery dies or it gets damaged.
As long as there’s a signal where you are, your spare cell phone can call 911 in case of an emergency, no matter how old it is. All cell phones can make emergency calls, even without a SIM card, so it could be your lifeline after a traffic accident.
10. Important Documents and Contact Information
There are several documents you may need to present to the police or other driver if you’re involved in a car accident. Keep a copy of your vehicle’s insurance card and registration documents in the car.
Carry contact information for your emergency contact, insurance company, medical provider, mechanic, and a tow company. Having this contact information on hand is helpful if someone else, such as the other driver or police officer, needs to make contact for you.
Keep these documents together and organized in your glovebox. If you ride a motorcycle, find a secure spot for these documents, such as in a storage compartment.
What to Do in Case of a Car Accident
If you’re in a minor fender bender or even a more serious truck accident, remain calm and follow these tips:
- Call for help: If you’re injured or the other driver has injuries, call 911 as soon as possible.
- Don’t leave the scene: After you call the police, wait for them to arrive. It’s tempting to have your car towed and call an Uber to drive you home. However, you may need to provide a statement and information to the officer.
- Document the scene and collect evidence: Use this list of personal injury evidence as a guid to protect yourself and increase the likelihood of getting paid by your insurance or proving fault in a lawsuit.
- Move out of the way: If your vehicle is still on the road and it’s driveable, move it to a safe place and out of the way of traffic.
- Don’t admit fault: it can be tempting to apologize or blame the other driver, but it is best to focus on personal safety until authorities arrive. Negligent driving cases can be complicated if you start discussing responsibility or blame too soon in the heat of the moment after your accident.
- Contact an injury attorney: You may need legal representation to ensure you’re compensated for damages and injuries. Contact a reputable car accident attorney to discuss your case.
Traffic accidents are always unexpected but if you’re prepared, they’re less stressful. By keeping these items on hand and following these tips, you’ll be more prepared if and when a car accident occurs.