Do You Have An Emergency Car Kit?

I will never forget driving down 64 West after a wonderful weekend at Virginia Beach with my family when suddenly my Ford Explorer became impossible to control. With much difficulty and a racing heart I was able to steer my vehicle off the highway. I did not have a cell phone with me as that was back in the days when I fought the idea of being that connected to the world, especially while on vacation.  My mind changed on that scary day. Cars whizzed by while I stood on the side of the road with 2 small children, a baby, and a shredded tire. I vowed never to be in that position again. Now I am armed with a smart phone and older kids that have their own phones with them but is that always enough to ensure our safety? Is a cell phone all we need in the car these days: a connection to the outside world?

Whether you are heading out on a long distance road trip to visit family over the holidays or just traveling around town, it is a good idea to carry an emergency roadside kit in your vehicle. We all know this is a smart thing to do, but do you actually have an emergency kit in your car? If you become stranded in a snowstorm or your automobile breaks down in a remote area, you will be relieved that you took the time to be prepared. Why compromise your safety?

It’s hard to imagine being stranded in your car in this day and time, but it does happen. Even if you have roadside assistance coverage it is of no use without a working phone or cell service. An unexpected automobile accident may damage your vehicle leaving you unable to drive.  A car wreck could also damage your phone or make you unable to retrieve it. Injuries could affect your ability to seek the help you need. Winter snowstorms may blow in and strand you on the highway as you are trying to get home.

You should always have some essential safety items packed in your car just in case. How do you know what you should include in your emergency car kit?  Start with the basics – food, water, and a blanket and then add other items that you might need, such as an emergency light, first aid items, and other accessories. Try to have enough supplies to accommodate all the members of your family or those traveling with you.  Also, if you have an infant or young child, you will want to make sure you have extra diapers, formula or any other supplies you might need to care for your child.

You can buy a pre-packed car emergency kit from many places, but you may want to add a few extra items of your own to customize your emergency kit. Here is a list of suggested items:


  • First aid kit
  • Flashlight
  • Emergency candles and water-proof matches
  • Food – energy bars or any food/snack that will not spoil
  • Water – in plastic bottles (replace every 4 – 6 months)
  • Prescription medicines
  • Blanket
  • Whistle – in case you need to attract attention
  • Road maps
  • Tow rope
  • Seat belt cutter
  • Jumper cables
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Road flares
  • Light sticks
  • Small shovel and ice scraper
  • Pocket knife or multi-purpose tool
  • Gloves
  • Rain poncho
  • Duct tape

Keep everything together in a duffel bag or backpack so it fits easily under a seat or in your trunk. This may seem like a lot of items, but the more prepared you are, the better you will be able to handle whatever arises.

Not only will I never forget how frightened I felt that night on the side of 64, I will never forget the elderly gentleman in the baseball cap who pulled over to help. He also did not have a cell phone but he took my AAA card and went to a pay phone and called them. He then came back and waited with me and helped with the kids until help arrived.  At least now I could offer him a bottle of water and a Zone Bar while we wait (after putting out the proper flares of course!)

About the Author: Courtney Van Winkle is a Richmond car accident attorney with almost 20 years of experience. As a partner with Allen & Allen, Courtney concentrates her practice on accidents involving cars, tractor trailers, brain injury and wrongful death claims in Richmond and across the state of Virginia.

[1] For additional suggestions and information, see article by Consumer Reports “Roadside Emergency Kit: What To Carry With You” at  See also information at “Create An Emergency Car Kit” at