Things you should keep in your car to be prepared for emergencies

How to prepare your car for unexpected events

DETROIT – Cars are packed with more gadgets than ever, but in an emergency, safety experts say it's often what's in the trunk that matters most.

Whether you're driving to work or making a trek up north, unexpected things can happen. As the North American International Auto Show takes over Detroit, there are some practical safety tips to consider for your car.

Having a cellphone with the number for AAA or 911 in it is a good first line of safety, but if it doesn't work out, there are ways to better prepare.

Jumper cables, tow straps, chains, tools, gas cans and tire irons are good items to have in your car. You might need them to get yourself out of a tight spot, or you might be able to help someone else who's stranded.

After a car accident or an emergency, you don't really need automotive accessories so that you can fix your car by yourself. You need to be able to get help and safely wait until it arrives, and that's where planning ahead comes in.

Here are basic essentials to keep in the car:

  • Your cellphone and a charger cable with a car adapter or other recharging source
  • A flashlight, ideally one that also has a flasher to attract attention in an emergency or one that you can crank to recharge
  • Emergency roadside signals, such as a brightly colored sheet, towel or flag to attract attention; an emergency safety triangle or even road flares if you're comfortable using them
  • It's critical not to get out of your car to place flares or a triangle if there is any ongoing road hazard, such as snow or ice. Many people have been injured because they stood outside their car after they lost control on ice and were then struck by another car that hit the same patch of ice.

    When in doubt, the safest place is in the car.

    Depending on the season, it's useful to be prepared for the cold with a blanket, hat, gloves, a jacket, hand warmers, socks and pull-onboots.

    It's best to keep boots in the passenger compartment so you can put them on if you're in snow and can't get into the trunk. If you don't have boots, consider keeping a couple of folded garbage bags and rubber bands to put over your shoes and pants to keep the snow out, if necessary. You can also use the bags to make a rain poncho.

    An ice scraper and brushes are also important tools to keep in the car. Depending on your circumstance, a collapsible shovel might be useful.

    Finally, keep food and water in the car in case you find yourself stranded. Leave some air in the water bottle in case the water freezes, so there's room for it to expand, and avoid carbonated cans that will burst if they freeze.

    While this sounds like a lot to remember, you can tailor the list of items to your circumstance.

    You can watch Dr. Frank McGeorge's full story in the video posted above.

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