Guide to Personal Preparation for Automotive Emergencies

Automobiles are an essential tool for transportation and general mobility in the modern world. There are, however, dangers that come with the presence and use of cars, most notably the risk of an automobile emergency. Automobile emergencies can come in the form of a breakdown or a car accident. Cars weigh thousands of pounds and are potentially moving at high speeds when a collision occurs, which means there is not only property damage involved, but also risk of injury or death. In addition to the risk of accidents, cars also require maintenance in order to function properly. Vehicles have many moving parts, any one of which can fail and cause the vehicle to stop running. Responsible car ownership involves taking steps to prevent these emergencies from happening when possible, and taking precautions in advance for when emergencies are unavoidable.

Proper Automobile Maintenance

Cars that run constantly without adequate maintenance run a high risk of breaking down. When it comes to parts such as brakes or tires, malfunctions may also lead to auto accidents. Keeping tires properly inflated will reduce the chance of blowouts, as will replacing them when their tread gets thin. Drivers should check their car brakes at least twice a year, and more often if they do a lot of driving in the city or in stop and go traffic. Each car has its own recommended schedule for when oil checks should be changed, but typically the interval is every 3,000 to 7,500 miles, or between three and six months. Proper maintenance also involves checking and changing transmission, brake and battery fluids when necessary, as well as checking the air filter, battery and fluid levels in the radiator. Windshield wipers and wiper fluid should also be checked at the start of winter or the rainy season. Cars should also be taken in to mechanic shops for professional maintenance. Usually the owner's manual will suggest the proper interval for tune-ups.

Preventing Emergencies from Occurring

While proper automobile maintenance can prevent certain emergencies from occurring, defensive driving and preparation for adverse driving conditions are also highly important. When driving into snowy areas, it is advisable to get chains for the car's tires ahead of time, as it will be less expensive than getting them when the car is stuck in snow. It is also safer to drive slower than the posted speed limit in rain and other inclement weather, as visibility can be reduced and the roads can become slippery. In general, drivers should always maintain proper distance between their car and the car in front of them. Under normal conditions the distance between two vehicles should be two to three seconds and longer in the case of rain, snow, fog, or icy roads. Before turning or changing lanes, always check the blind spot to the side of the car where the driver is planning to go. Always observe the rules concerning right of way, and avoid driving distractions such as texting, eating, self-grooming, and talking on a non-hands-free cell phone. Drivers should also keep their eyes on the road and watch out for potential hazards that may lie ahead.

Automobile Emergency Kit

In addition to taking steps to prevent emergencies, drivers should also prepare for the unexpected. Automobile emergency kits enable drivers and passengers to recover quickly from an emergency, or in extreme cases, to survive. Battery jumper cables are useful in case the car's battery loses power. In the case of a flat tire, a spare tire can get a car back on the road right away. To replace a flat tire, a jack and a tire iron are also necessary. A fire extinguisher is also a good thing to have, in case of an engine fire. An LED flashlight with extra batteries is essential for carrying out any of these emergency tasks at night, as are emergency flares, which can alert other drivers or the police. Because it is possible for drivers to become stranded in a remote area, blankets and a supply of non-perishable food and water are essential items for survival in the case of an emergency.

Proper Documentation

If an accident does occur, or the police pull a vehicle over, the driver is responsible for having certain documentation on hand. Before getting behind the wheel of a car, drivers should always make sure that they have their driver's license and proof of adequate automobile insurance coverage. In addition, they should always have their automobile registration in the glove compartment o their vehicle. Finally, the driver should be prepared to give their home address in the event of an accident involving another vehicle.

  • Maintaining Your Vehicle's Tires: Tire maintenance is the focus of this article, which discusses why it is important and what drivers should look out for. Readers are also given directions on how to check tire pressure.
  • How To Maintain Your New Car: Click on this link to learn how often regular maintenance should be performed on a vehicle. This Consumer Reports article also reviews regular maintenance that drivers should take care of such as checking tire pressure, regular oil changes and maintaining a clean vehicle. A video is also included on this page.
  • Getting Your Vehicle Ready For Winter: Advice and tips on how to prepare a car for safe driving during the cold weather months. The article discusses what drivers check and the importance of getting engine and any drivability issues corrected before they are worsened by cold weather.
  • If You Have an Accident: The New York State DMV has important information for visitors about what to do in the case of an accident. This includes the documentation that a driver must have on hand, including their license information, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance.
  • Winter Safety Tips for Motorists: Clicking on this link opens up a PDF document that covers winter driving safety. Topics covered in the document include driving safety tips, what to do if stranded, and creating an emergency winter car kit.
  • Defensive Driving: The article associated with this link discusses defensive driving and its importance when it comes to driving safely. Unsafe driving behaviors are also reviewed as is what to check when performing a safety check of a vehicle.
  • Ten Steps to Responsible Driving for All Motorists: The Maryland Department of Transportation lists ten steps that all drivers can take in order to become safer drivers and avoid accidents.
  • Traffic Signs and Rules of the Road: To read this PDF document about traffic signs and rules, click on the adjacent link. The document illustrates and explains various signs encountered on the road. Knowing these signs helps to improve driver safety and reduces the chances of an accident.
  • Preparing An Emergency Kit: On this page readers are given a list of items that should be kept in every car. The list includes necessary items and items that people should consider carrying.
  • Winter Driving - Emergency Car Kit: Information on this web page focuses on winter driving. Readers learn what basic maintenance should be performed on vehicles during the winter and what should be kept inside of the car in the event of an emergency.
  • The Emergency Kit You Need in Your Car: Read what basic items should be kept in the car that can help drivers get back on the road in the event of an emergency. Additional items, such as medicine, food, portable power, and wiper blades should also be included in the car for emergencies.
  • Build a Better Emergency Car Kit: Discover what items are necessary for emergency car kits by clicking on this link. The page includes a section that list supplies for a basic car kit and another section that lists items needed to customize car kits for long road trips and/or bad weather conditions.
  • Car Survival and Emergency Kit: Clicking on this link will open up a page to a printable checklist for a car emergency kit.
  • Kit Storage Locations: This link lists emergency kits that people should have prepared for different locations, including the car. Under the section titled "Vehicles" the article lists items that should be kept in one's car.