While the most important things you can do in a car involve driving attentively and wearing your seat belt, there are a range of additional bits of safety gear that can mean the difference between life and death in dire situations. Here are some bits of gear I recommend every driver have in his or her car at all times. Whenever I come across a case where the use of this gear would have saved a life, I’ll include it on this car safety blog.
Life Hammers / Belt Cutters
Life Hammer. The life hammer is a hammer specifically designed to break through tempered automotive glass in one or two taps. Time is of the essence in emergencies, such as when your vehicle is involved in a crash or in a water immersion. I’ve covered several cases where the presence of a life hammer could have enabled vehicle occupants to escape alive or enable the escape of their loved ones. It also includes a seat belt cutter and is well worth the investment.
Personal flotation devices
It might seem unusual to think of carrying a personal flotation device in a vehicle, but a quick look at the thousands of cases of vehicular immersion in the US each year shows this to be an investment well worth considering. Type 3 vests may be worn discreetly under clothing without being noticeable and are small enough to stow beneath seats within easy reach for such situations. A life jacket can easily mean the difference between life and death if you’re unfortunate enough to drive off a bridge.
Car Fire Extinguisher. A car fire extinguisher can help you put out small fires in the engine bay or enable you to come to the aid of others at the scene of a collision. There are countless stories of people becoming trapped in vehicles and burning to death simply because they were stuck inside and would-be helpers outside the vehicle were unable to open it due to the intense heat of a quickly spreading fire. Keep it in the trunk and replace it every 5 years or at the expiration date to ensure it remains in working order.
Emergency Warning Triangle. I study a number of cases where people survive the initial collision or mishap, but are then killed while investigating the scene or seeking help beyond their vehicles. If you become stuck on the side of the road in the winter, run out of gas, or have a mild fender bender, once you assure that you and your loved ones are safe and contact emergency services, put out a safety triangle to avoid being killed by oncoming traffic. Safety triangles are a cheap investment that easily fit in the trunk of the smallest vehicles.
An emergency radio and flashlight is a great way to stay in touch with the rest of the world while giving yourself crucial visibility in an emergency. Of course, this isn’t a device you’ll use while driving, but if stranded in a snowbank or lost miles from anywhere, the ability to charge a cell phone, listen to a weather radio, or signal someone with a flashlight can be a lifesaver.
Utility shovel. When you’re stuck in light snow, a good utility shovel is worth its weight in gold. Fortunately, they don’t weigh very much and can be very easily stowed in the trunk of a car. A utility shovel helps you dig yourself out of snowdrifts or similar conditions in a few minutes, which can mean the difference between rescuing yourself and needing to be rescued by someone else. No driver should be without one.
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