Auto Safety Resource Guide

When driving—especially in winter conditions—it pays to have a few safety resources always on hand in your car. Standard car safety equipment includes flares to lay out on the road in case of an accident, a first aid kit for minor injuries, warning lights or hazard triangles to warn motorists of accidents and a fire extinguisher to help put out car fires. Other handy equipment to have includes a tire gauge, jumper cables, a small emergency toolkit and a windshield scraper.

A tire gauge comes in handy when you need to check your tire's air, especially when the gas station's gauge doesn't work. Jumper cables can provide a co-worker a jump start when they've left their car lights on and worn down the car's battery. A small emergency toolkit can help when you need to make a minor roadway repair—and a windshield scraper helps remove ice and snow from your windshield as needed.

Another good idea is to keep $20 in small change or bills handy for when you need to pay for parking or toll fees. A pen and paper in the glove box helps when you need to provide insurance or registration information to another driver during an accident. Keep your insurance, registration, pen and paper together in your glove box for easy access.

When you live in climates that can be especially brutal in the winter, it helps to also keep asl emergency kit available if you get stuck in your car somewhere. Include an extra jacket, a blanket, and non-perishable food items, such as granola bars or nuts to tie you over until help comes. If you find that you are in adverse conditions, stay put in your car and use your cell phone to contact 911 for roadway assistance. Always charge your cell phone before going out in adverse weather.

Other items you might consider for your car when you live in snowy conditions include a snow shovel, tow and tire chains and a bag of salt or kitty litter. The snow shovel is to help remove snow from around your tires. After applying tire chains, your car travels more easily on the snow because it can get a better grip on the road, and salt or kitty litter helps give your car something to grip if it gets stuck on the ice.

Driving during adverse weather requires special attention paid to the roadways. Always drive at reduced speeds and add three cars extra stopping distance between you and the cars ahead of you. When the road is wet, it's easy for a car to hydroplane across the road. Driving too fast for conditions can result in serious accidents. Drive defensively when driving during brutal weather conditions. If possible, avoid driving during bad storms, whether rain, snow or ice.

When you find that your rear tires are beginning to skid on snow or ice, take your foot off the accelerator and steer the car toward the direction you want the car to go. For instance, if the rear wheels are sliding left, steer left. This might require you to flip between steering left and then right to get your car in the direction you want it to go. Above all, don't panic. Pump standard brakes gently; with an ABS braking system, do not pump the brakes, hold the pedal steady. If you feel the brake pedal pulsing, this is normal; ABS is doing the pumping for you.

If your front wheels go into a skid, shift the car to neutral and remove your foot from the gas pedal. As the wheels skid sideways, the car will begin to slow and traction should return. When it does, steer in the direction you want to go. As you gain control, shift the car into gear and slowly accelerate. 

In an accident when your car plunges into the water, remember to keep your seat belt buckled until after the car hits the water. Hitting water is like hitting a wall and can throw you about. You have a few minutes after the car hits the water before it sinks, so once in the water, open all the windows of the car, as the car's electric windows will still work for a few moments. Unbuckle your seat belt and instruct everyone in the car to do the same. Get small children out of their car seats quickly and safely. If you car sinks to the bottom, you won't be able to open the car doors until the pressure is equalized on the inside and outside of the car, unless you swim out of the window. You will need to hold your breath before you can open the car door. Above all, don't panic. Keep your head about you and you can escape safely.

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