According to the World Health Organisation, cars are responsible for more preventable deaths than suicide, HIV/AIDS and even homicide. Motorists in low and middle-income societies are most at risk of dying in a vehicle accident, with countries in Africa reaching the top of this list.
Despite your car’s homicidal tendencies, we spend hours rolling through the motoring environment. Our faithful cars take us around the corner for a much-needed caffeine fix, they get our kids to school and take us on long-planned holidays. Each route has its own risk profile. A life-threatening event could be around the corner or hundreds of miles from home. We believe that fortune favors the prepared, so let’s prepare your car for an emergency.
Emergency Items to Keep In Your Car
Before we get started at what you need, let’s consider two important principles:
- Pack your car emergency kit so that it doesn’t move: If you have ever been in a vehicle accident, you will know that when it happens, it’s chaotic and violent. Your seatbelt keeps you attached to the car, but anything that is not attached to the car, coffee cups, cell phones, and even bodies are subject to the laws of kinetic energy. When the vehicle comes to a stop, everything loose is everywhere, and this is when you are going to need your roadside rescue kit. The first principle is, therefore, pack it so that it won’t move.
- Always pack your kit in the same place: When the emergency takes place, your emotional brain may be running the show. Higher brain functions like memory may not be accessible. Packing your equipment in the same place every time ensures you can find it in a panicked state, in the dark or that you can guide another person to easily find what you need.
Now on with the car and its gear:
Car Emergency Kit List
Vehicle Maintenance is Key
Executive protection specialists will go through a daily routine of checking that the car is in working order, they know that breaking down in a secluded or dodgy area is one of the quickest ways to expose their clients to risk. This comes down to regular services, checking tires (including the spare), lights and indicators, oil, water, brake fluid, and anti-freeze levels. Lastly, don’t let that gas tank run down to empty. There’s nothing worse than rushing to an emergency when you need to stop and fill up.
Check Your Standard Emergency Equipment
Check your standard emergency equipment: Before we get on with the fancy stuff, check that your spare tire is inflated, you have your jack and wheel wrench, emergency triangle and jumper cables.
Stash Some Cash
In this day of credit cards and payment apps, we have been steered towards a cashless society. Your credit card may get you reward points, but in an emergency, cash is king! Cash buys you help from roadside strangers, it doesn’t need a network or a card machine. This is an especially useful tip when traveling through the third world where banking systems may not be working or you may need to pay an “on the spot traffic fine” to a law enforcement official.
Pack a Good Quality Flashlight
There will be occasions when you arrive home or even a holiday destination after dark. It’s often a good idea to check the property out before offloading the luggage and kids. Your flashlight should be packed in an accessible place. It should also always be packed in the same place (so that you can skilfully fumble for it in the dark) and it should be put back in the same place every time you are finished using it. Rechargeable flashlights are ideal in this situation.
Your Roadside First Aid Kit
A number of prepacked travel kits are available. When you purchase one its worth checking the inventory and adding a few items. Add extra medical gloves. In an accident situation, the extra gloves enable you to add members to your team of rescuers. Latex gloves come in different grades of thickness. Try to avoid very thin ones as you’re not in surgery. On the road, there may be objects that can easily snag and tear the gloves.
It’s also worth adding a sealed burn dressing (one with a gel is a good idea). This becomes very useful during holidays and camping trips where we tend to have running kids, drunk relatives, and open fires.
Check that you have an emergency space blanket. Otherwise known as a mylar blanket. They have multiple uses and can be a critical first aid tool while you wait for emergency services to arrive (check out this bearded man with a checked shirt for usage instructions). Lastly, all-time badass Tim Kennedy’s Sheepdog Response bunch reminds us that a tourniquet will take your kit to the next level. The roadside first aid kit should be quickly reachable, and not below a quarter ton of luggage.
Include a Headlamp
Ever try to change a flat in the dark with one hand? The genius of the headlamp is that it frees up both hands. This is a superb tool, remember to periodically check that the batteries are charged.
Weaponize Your Car
You may be a peace-loving individual, the same unfortunately cannot be said for other people. On the road, self-defense tools may include firearms, pepper spray, expandable batons, and even shocking devices. The best firearm available is the one attached to your body. Stashing your trusty piece under your leg or in a slot in the cabin becomes a problem when your car is hit hard and your gun has gone AWOL in the dark.
Pepper spray can be an excellent less-than-lethal tool (remember the drunk relative). The can is pressurized and can leak when left in very hot environments. Remember to place your weapon of choice in a place where you can access it just as you are getting out of the car (what all the tactical geeks like to refer to as debussing). The transition from sitting behind the steering wheel and standing is a vulnerable time for a motorist. This is the time to focus on the external environment and have an easy grab-force-multiplier should the need arise.
Protect Your Hands With Gloves
As you travel the temperature of your car’s moving parts will get hot. Gloves can help protect your hands during roadside repairs or even when assisting with vehicle accidents. Make sure that the gloves are not made from an absorbent material. This could lead to burns when dealing with hot liquids like radiator water.
Solve Flats With a Tire Inflation Canister
There may be times when you don’t want to unpack the luggage and change the spare. The longer you are in a dark or remote environment, the higher your risk level becomes. Depending on the damage to the tire, and inflation canister can quickly get you on the road to a repair center or filling station. Larger vehicles like SUV’s may require two canisters to get the tire inflated.
Keeping Hydrated is Key
Packing some water can be a game-changer. You don’t know how long you are going to wait for help and in hot environments, thirst can turn from discomfort to a medical threat. This is especially important when traveling with children. The water could also be used to fill an overheating radiator.
Multitools Are Multi-Useful
A multitool will never replace an actual tool kit, but it can be used for low-level repair work, making a makeshift tool or even as a weapon. You want a quality multitool that won’t snap under tension.
Assemble Your Own Tool Kit
Vehicle tool kits vary in size. If you are going to keep one, a socket wrench is an excellent tool. Cable ties can also become powerful allies for a range of quick fixes.
Fit in a Pen And Notepad
Cell phones can get damaged or loose signal. You also can’t leave them on your windshield as a message to tell someone you’ve gone for help. A pen and note can also be used to record details at accident scenes and they don’t need recharging.
Photos by Grace Coetzee
Model: Galit (teenage wonder person)
References & Further Reading
ilikeyellowalot. (2017, May 6). The RIGHT WAY to use a SURVIVAL BLANKET. Retrieved from YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJPKzyaBnns
Sheepdog Response. (2019, September 17). CAT Tourniquet Self-Application (from a Green Beret Medic) | Sheepdog Response. Retrieved from YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mDzQVO8Oem4
World Health Organization. (2015). Global status report on road safety 2015. Geneva: World Health Organization.