This checklist of safety items for your car helps to supplement A Complete Checklist of Items You Should Have in Your Car. Click on the items below to learn more about each car safety item and recommendations.
Safety items you should have in your car
1. First aid kit
A first aid kit is a must-have safety item you should keep in your car at all times. The problem is most kits will not include everything you need. So I recommend getting a fairly complete first aid kit such as the varieties offered for road trips by AAA. These typically come with the bare essentials that you can supplement with things like medication. Popular Mechanics recommends, “Tylenol or a generic equivalent, an anti-inflammatory such as aspirin, an antihistamine such as Benadryl and diarrhea medication…” — I would add that it might also be helpful to carry some motion sickness medication such as Dramamine for passengers that may become car sick. I like the AAA 77 Piece Warrior Road Assistance Kit because it includes a 45 piece first-aid kit, an air compressor (advantages of having an air compressor), multi-function tool, jumper cables, reflective triangle, a driving survival book, and more. You can then supplement this kit with medication and additional bandages if needed. It’s likely you will be duplicating items you already own when purchasing a complete first aid kit as I did, but this is not a loss. Consider using duplicate items as backups or placing them into another vehicle.
Other considerations: If you take prescription medications you should ensure that you have an ample supply to sustain you if your car breaks down for an extended period. Also, if you or a family member suffers from any type of life-threatening allergy make sure that you have allergy medications on hand. For example, I keep two (2) Epinephrine autoinjectors, EpiPens, in my car at all times just in case. Likewise, if you or someone in your family has diabetes plan accordingly. Bring enough insulin treatments to sustain you and consider having a small store of food to stabilize sugar levels if needed.
Tip: Don’t forget to wear your emergency medical bracelet if you require one.
2. Auto fire extinguisher
There are fire extinguishers that are specifically made for car fires. You will need a fire extinguisher that handles oil, gasoline, and electrical fires. One that is getting great reviews right now is the First Alert Auto Fire Extinguisher on Amazon and can be purchased for under $20. There are also a variety of products that handle both marine and car fires if you are seeking a multi-purpose extinguisher you can transfer from one vehicle to another. If budget is not an issue and you own a high-end car, classic car, or just want a cleaner discharge that won’t ruin your vehicle, then I would recommend looking into products such as a HalGuard Clean Agent Fire Extinguisher. These products are effective at putting out fires and leave less mess and prevent damage. As a bonus, they come in chrome if you want to dress up your car.
3. Reflective safety vest, hazard markers, and flares
You want to be seen at night by other motorists if your car breaks down to avoid a potentially fatal situation. As previously mentioned on the common items list, a flashlight is essential. However, a flashlight will not provide enough of a light signature at night to warn other motorists to pay attention or slow-down. You need markers that are highly reflective like reflective emergency triangles and/or flares well behind your vehicle at an appropriate distance to give an early warning. Most important for your safety, you need a reflective vest so that you can be easily seen. All first responders such as police officers and paramedics utilize reflective clothing or vests on the road for a good reason — because reflective clothing saves lives. I would recommend a yellow reflective safety vest that meets ANSI/ISEA standards such as the Neiko High Visibility Neon Yellow Vest.
Other considerations: Emergency reflective triangles are recommended for placement behind your vehicle. Just make sure they have a substantially weighted base. Too often lightweight triangles get blown off the road by high winds or from large trucks passing by.
Water is essential for obvious reasons and you should keep plenty of it handy for every road trip. You will need to determine the amount needed and storage considerations based on a variety of factors including trip duration and climate. The FDA considers bottled water to have an indefinite shelf life if it remains unopened. That said, bottled water that is stored in a car for long periods is likely to go bad in hot climates because the plastic will gradually degrade. The same is true in freezing conditions or when there are dramatic temperature variations; a freeze-and-thaw causing the plastic seals to weaken over time.
To determine the amount of water needed it might help you to keep in mind the top 4 popular uses of water on a road trip: 1. For Hydration, 2. For first aid, 3. For Hygiene, and 4. To refill your radiator.
Tip: Your radiator does not require potable water but requires antifreeze if you are adding large amounts. So rather than paying for bottled water, consider keeping a separate high volume sealed container of tap water in your trunk (an attachable pour nozzle makes life easier too). Tap water will not hurt your radiator but with the absence of antifreeze you are likely to have corrosion over the long term. Antifreeze also does more than just keeping water from freezing. It helps prevent water boil-over and corrosion as previously mentioned.
5. Multi-function tool, glass breaker and seatbelt cutter
A multi-function tool is recommended and since it’s not listed on the previous page under common items you should have in your car, I’ll state it here. Look for a quality multi-function tool that includes flat and Phillips screwdrivers and pliers. There’s a model you may want to look at called the Swiss+Tech Micro-Max 19-in-1 Keychain Multitool.
What I also carry is the Hinderer CLS, a combination knife, glass-breaker (window punch) and seat belt cutter that some Firefighter/Paramedics and EMTs use. Luckily I’ve never had a situation occur that required the use of the window punch or seat belt cutter. But, I feel assured knowing I might have a second chance at survival if my car was ever submerged in water and the power windows were stuck, and/or doors jammed shut due to a collision. Even more so, I feel confident that I could help another motorist in a similar emergency, or at least have this tool as an option among other life-saving items I could use to assist them. The Hinderer CLS is made by Gerber. The window punch is located at the base of the knife and the seat belt cutter folds into the lower part of the handle. The seat belt cutter can also be used for cutting away clothing because the small blade is encased with no sharp tip exposed.
Consider the options: I recommend that you explore various options on Amazon. Here is a listing of window breakers and seat belt cutters.
6. Cell phone and emergency contacts
Have the means available to communicate with someone who can help you when your car breaks down or in emergency situations. Keep a cell phone or smartphone and a list of emergency phone numbers available at all times.
Other considerations: Look into Onstar FMV services for added protection. OnStar Automatic Crash Response provides 24/7 help. Emergency responders are sent to your precise GPS location in the event of a crash.
7. Work gloves
Protect your hands with some decent quality work gloves to prevent blisters when changing a tire or performing other tasks. Look for a quality, non-shrinking, durable product with sufficient padding to protect your hands. One pair that’s getting shining reviews are the Custom Leathercraft 125M Handyman Flex Grip Work Gloves.
8. Surviving the elements: Emergency blanket and rain poncho
Imagine yourself hiking to your destination rather than driving in a car. What would you wear? Think in these terms and you shouldn’t have any problem weathering a storm. However, there are two items I suggest that are not a part of the common wardrobe: a warm emergency blanket and a rain poncho. One good option for a blanket that’s not only space-age but is a great space-saver for your car, is the Heat Reflective Emergency Blanket / Survival blanket for under $3. Another option are Emergency Mylar Blankets that are getting great reviews right now and are around $17. Ponchos are cheap and I’ve even found some for under one dollar. To me, they are priceless items because there’s nothing worse than being wet and frigid when you’re changing a tire.
You can help add to this list. Send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org