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car safety

Behind the Wheel

22 Things to Have in Your Winter Safety Kit

February 1, 2015
In December I talked about what to do if you get stranded out in the snow in your car this winter. Though I briefly touched on some emergency items that are essential to have with you in your car, I didn’t have the time to go into complete detail. Since there are so many other items that would be ideal to have on hand, I’ve dedicated this post to an extensive list of how to build a complete winter safety kit. Of course you may not be able to stock up on every single item, but refer back to my original post to see the bare minimum. This post is all about being completely prepared for anything and everything Mother Nature could throw at you! Just having all these items isn’t going to do you too much good. What you really need is some tips on how to put these items to use when you’re in a pinch. Read on for my ideas:
  1. a shovel. If you get stuck in a snow bank, a shovel might just be the only way out!
  2. work gloves. Again, being stuck in the snow going mean you have some cold, cold digging ahead of you. Or even if you simply need to change a tire or refill your oil…work gloves are a welcome tool!
  3. two quarts of oil. Sometimes all your car needs is a little lube to keep things running smoothly. If you car breaks down, always check your oil levels and refill as needed!
  4. jumper cables. Perhaps the easiest way to get out of a broken-down car situation is to jump the battery with jumper cables. You’ll be lucky if that’s all it takes to get you going, so don’t be without them!
  5. windshield scraper and small broom. Nothing is worse than the moment you realize you left your windshield scraper in the house or another car…don’t let it happen to you. 🙂
  6. flashlight with extra batteries. If you need to conserve gas and battery, you may be stuck in the dark night. Hence, the flashlight.
  7. battery powered radio. A radio or walkie-talkie could be your ticket to help getting out of the mess you’re in.
  8. extra stock of antifreeze. If your car is low on antifreeze, it’s always good to have some extra stock on hand to cool the engine.
  9. water. This is another key item to cool your engine down and get your car to safety.
  10. snack food including energy bars. If you end up stuck for longer than you could’ve imagined, you sure be grateful to have some snacks on hand. It could save your life!
  11. raisins and mini candy bars. These high-sugar items can keep your body going even if you haven’t had much else to eat in days.
  12. matches and small candles. These items will come in handy for light and for warmth!
  13. extra hats, socks and mittens. We’re talking about a snow safety kit, so of course we’re going to include essential warm-weather clothes.
  14. First aid kit with pocket knife. If you’re stuck in the snow because of a car accident, you’ll sure be glad to have a first aid kit.
  15. Necessary medications. When stranded for hours or days, the need for medication may come up – even if it’s just to cure a headache!
  16. blankets or sleeping bag. These essentials will keep you from getting frostbite or hypothermia in the night.
  17. tow chain or rope. If another car passes by, they just might be able to pull your car back onto the road with the help of a tow chain.
  18. road salt, sand, or cat litter. These are key elements from providing traction for your car wheels to assist in getting out of that snow bank!
  19. brake fluid. When the brakes go out, you’ll want to give them some love with an extra supply of brake fluid.
  20. emergency flares and reflectors. Flares can keep you out of harms way if other cars are on the road, and draw attention to bring you to safety!
  21. fluorescent distress flag and whistle. These items can also help bring attention to your car and get the necessary help.
  22. Cell phone adapter to plug into lighter. Being able to call someone and charge your battery could be essential communication for getting rescued. Of course, these days, I probably don’t need to tell you this one. 😉
Behind the Wheel

Don't Panic: Here's What To Do If You Get Stranded In Your Car This Winter!

December 23, 2014
Have you ever thought about what would happen if your car got stuck in a snow storm? Would you have any idea what to do? Unfortunately, in many parts of the country this situation is not that uncommon. Despite winter storm watches, modern technology and advances in the automotive industry, your car is not invincible to ol’ Mother Nature. You need to be armed with the knowledge of what to do if it were to happen to you, and I’m here to make that happen! We’ve still got a bit of time before the dead of winter is upon us, so let’s head into the season ready for whatever might happen during our holiday travels! Here are my tips for what to do if your car gets stuck in a winter storm: 1. Avoid getting yourself in the situation in the first place! As I said before, sometimes getting stuck in a winter storm while on the road is unavoidable. But more often than not, the cars stuck in a storm could’ve avoided the situation if they really wanted to. If there’s a heavy snowfall or blizzard going down before you even leave the house, DO NOT get on the road in those conditions. It doesn’t matter how far you plan on traveling or how tough you think your car is — in reality, you just shouldn’t be risking it. Even if you have to cancel plans, miss a day of work, etc…avoid the road at all costs. 2. Have emergency gear on hand. Now that we’ve got that covered, let’s talk about what to do when all else fails and you actually do get stuck. I recommend having a handful of items in your car all winter long, just to be on the safe side. These items could save your life!
  • one or two wool blankets
  • flashlight and batteries
  • first aid kit
  • non-perishable food to last 72 hours
  • bottled water
  • extra set of clothes
  • matches and candles
  • sack of sand (to provide traction for tires)
  • towing rope
3. Get your car ready for winter. This could be a long post on its own, but there’s a lot you can do to make sure your car is in the best shape possible for driving in snow. It might save you from getting stuck in the first place! Here’s a great list to serve as your guide. 4. Stay with your car. Unless you are absolutely certain of where you have gotten stuck and how close a gas station or help might be found, don’t leave your car! You might think you’re in a bad situation, but nothing could be worse than leaving the car to get help, and getting lost in the blizzard without any shelter at all. 5. Attract attention. Since it’s not a good idea to leave your car behind, you’ll need to try to get people to come to you. And in a sea of white snow, that can be a hard task. So make sure to do everything possible to attract attention to your car. Light flares, tie bright fabric to your antennae, flash your brights (if they are visible), and anything else you can think of. 6. Keep a window cracked. Even though you surely want to be blocking out the winter cold, you’ll need to keep at least one window slightly open so that your car doesn’t completely seal up in the freezing temperatures. You want people to be able to rescue you when they come! 7. Don’t run the engine or heater. This is another one that might seem counter-intuitive, but running the car will waste precious gas, and running the heater can use up oxygen in the car and create carbon monoxide if the exhaust pipe is not cleared. It’s best to try to get heat from blankets, candles and clothing. If you follow all of these steps, there’s a good chance you’ll be just fine in a winter storm. Most people who find themselves stranded are usually rescued or able to get out on their own within 24 hours. So be sure to remember these steps and be prepared!
Behind the Wheel

Can you Guess the Worst Time of Year To Drive?

November 14, 2014
Would you believe that the season you’re most likely to get in a car accident is not winter or spring, but actually fall?! Most of the time, we are bombarding with information about prepping your car for cold weather or the transition into summer time, but it turns out that the beautiful, wonderful fall weather is the most hazardous for drivers. Perhaps it’s because people have their guard down more than they would when slick, icy roads are commonplace, but rain is a much greater danger, according to the Road Weather Management Program. According to their reports, 25 percent of car accidents happen because of weather-related conditions…and 75 percent of of those accidents happen on wet pavement! The increased darkness and leaves on the ground also gives cause for more accidents. Hence, there are a few things you can do to prep your car for fall weather:
  • Make sure all of your headlights are working properly and replace if necessary — you don’t want to be caught on a dark night without one or two headlights in working order!
  • Replace bald tires or rotate tires in order to have the best traction on wet roads.
  • Heat can wear down rubber wiper blades during the summer, so it’s a good idea to replace wiper blades so that you have the best possible vision while driving in stormy weather. If the blades are streaking or failing to give consistent visibility, you need new blades!
  • Of course, you’ll also want to make sure your brakes are in the best working order, so you aren’t skidding around on roads.
  • Check tire pressure, for safety and, as a bonus — to improve your gas mileage!
Other than these maintenance checks, your final preparation for the fall season should be to stay alert and educated on what to do in various situations. For example:
  • In rainy weather, you should always drop your speed below the usual speed limit and stay with the flow of traffic.
  • Take it easy when rounding corners and approaching stops, in rain, snow or fog
  • Drive with low beams on and listen for traffic you may not see when driving in foggy weather
I think the most important thing is to just be aware of the dangers of fall driving and the high rate of car accidents. Once you keep that in mind, you’ll naturally be more cautious and create safer driving conditions for us all. Now go out there and enjoy the last of the AMAZING fall colors!
Car Culture

Beat the Bad Guys: How To Avoid Auto Theft

November 4, 2014
Having your car stolen has got to be one of the worst feelings in the world. And though you can’t completely control whether or not it happens to you, there are several things you can do to decrease the likelihood. I don’t think anyone would ever wish for their car to be stolen, but sometimes people do things that seem like they are just asking for it to happen (ie. leaving their car running while going into the store). From the type of car you drive to your car parking habits, play it safe by learning these helpful tips: 1. Always lock your car. This one may seem obvious, but it’s amazing how many people realize they left the car unlocked on a night their car was stolen. Even though it’s nice to think we live in a world where you don’t have to lock your car all the time, it’s just not worth the risk! 2. Don’t park in secluded, dark areas. Whenever you can, make sure to park in a highly trafficked area with plenty of bright light (especially if you’re parking at night). Auto theft is more likely to happen if the thief can get away in the dark, without anyone ever noticing. 3. Get a unique paint job. Believe it or not, uniquely colored cars are stolen far less often than cars of popular paint colors (gray, black, white, etc.) The logic makes sense when you think about it, though. No smart thief is going to want to steal an easily spotted, bright pink or yellow car. 4. Buy the latest model. New car technology makes it increasingly difficult for thieves to hot-wire and steal cars. In fact, car theft has gone down significantly since the development of features like computer chip coded keys and engine immobilizers. If you’ve got an older model, however, the thieves will have a much easier time breaking in. So trade in for a new model if you really want to play it safe. 5. Buy a less common car. It’s well known that Honda Accords, Honda Civics and Chevy Silverados are some of the most commonly stolen cars out there. Sure, they are also just more of these types of cars in general and the statistic may be slightly skewed. But consider another point: thieves might be stealing the most popular cars because they’re less likely to be spotted and get caught. 6. Get a good security system. Loud security systems are an effective means of scaring off auto thieves, if only for the noise that draws attention to whatever is happening. Additionally, some security systems will alert you via the remote whenever the alarm goes off, so you’ll be aware of and able to report the theft far sooner than you might otherwise. 7. Drive manual. It’s true, like the rest of the population, many thieves don’t know how to drive stick shift! Since manual cars are far more rare these days, it makes sense that thieves would be less likely to try to steal a car with a manual engine. 8. Park in the garage. If you’re lucky enough to have a garage, always remember to park the car inside. The garage provides one extra obstacle for thieves to overcome, making it less likely that they’ll go to the effort. 9. Hide your valuables. Oftentimes, thieves are drawn to a car by the valuable items they see inside, and then steal the whole car once they’ve broken in. Try not to ever leave anything valuable in your car (ie. phone, camera, iPod, money, etc.). And if you do have to leave it in the car, put the items in the trunk or under the seat.
Car fun, Holiday

Play It Safe on Halloween

October 28, 2014
Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 4.26.44 PM I recently read a very sad article about how young pedestrian deaths double on Halloween night, in comparison to other nights of the year. Since 1990, more than 115 children and teens have been hit by a car and killed on Halloween night. Though that number may not seem like a huge amount for more than 20 years, the number is on the rise, and of course if it ever happened to someone you loved, that one death would be all that mattered. I wanted to write this post to make sure we are all aware of the dangers and can spread the word to keep children (and adults!) safe this Halloween. People worry about unsafe candy or mischievous Halloween pranks, being safe while walking around the neighborhood is certainly the biggest concern. And one that we can easily have control of! Here are a few tips on playing it safe this Halloween:
  • Don’t let children go trick or treating alone, even if it’s still light outside
  • Always use crosswalks to cross the street, and never let children run across the street by themselves
  • Carry flashlights and use them going from house to house
  • Wear reflective clothing, just as late-night bikers and pedestrians would any other night
  • Make sure teens aren’t distracted by cell phones if they go out on their own
  • Drive extra slow on Halloween night, and always double check intersections when making a turn
If we all follow these precautions, we’re sure to have a much safer and happier Halloween experience. Now go enjoy the ghosts and goblins of the night!
Car Culture

Essential Items To Keep in Your Car

July 24, 2014
If you’re like me, you’re on a constant mission to get stuff out of your car rather than put more things in it. Somehow random things just seem to pile up until your backseat resembles the depths of your storage closet! But sometimes there are essential things that are better to keep packed in the car than take them out. So I’ve gathered a list handy car items that will make your life easier when you’re on the run, in a bind or just killing time! CAR SAFETY -Jumper cables: You never know when you’ll need a jump — or when you can help someone else in a time of need! -Spare tire: I’ve already showed you how to change a tire, so now make sure you have one on hand! -Car manual: The car manual stores valuable information about your car that you could need at a moment’s notice. -Ice scraper: Most people think to have an ice scraper on hand in the winter, but I like to keep one year round for freak storms or other random situations where it could come in handy.ice_scraper_blue -Proof of insurance: If you ever get pulled over, you most certainly will need to show your insurance. Don’t be caught without it! -Tire pressure gauge: Tires must be kept at a certain pressure, so it is important to keep a gauge on hand to make sure everything is at the optimal level. GENERAL SAFETY -Flashlight: If your car has ever broken down at night, you know how valuable it is to have a flashlight on hand. -72-hour kit: You never know what can happen when you’re on the road, so be prepared with a first aid kit, water bottles, emergency food and all that comes in a 72-hour kit. RZfull -Blanket: If you get stuck in cold temperatures overnight, you’ll be grateful to have a blanket in your car. As a bonus, it can be used for picnics or long road trips as well! -Small amount of cash: For the terrible moment when your wallet gets lost or stolen! (Or for the times when you cross a toll booth) -Emergency phone numbers: In the day of cell phones, you probably don’t know even your own family members’ phone numbers. So write them down and store them in case your phone gets lost, stolen or damaged. -Maps: Your GPS or cell phone might not always be there for you, but a map will! (Just make sure you know how to read it! 😉  ) CONVENIENCE -Umbrella: Don’t get caught in a freak storm! -Car cell phone charger: If you rely on your phone as much as I do, you know how fast the battery can drain. With a handy car phone charger, you won’t be in trouble if you forget to charge it overnight! -Paper towels: For those times you spill a drink, get mud on the seats or end up with any other mess, paper towels are here to save the day! -Reusable bags: With the green movement going on these days, it’s always nice to have reusable bags for the moments you need to run into the grocery store. -Snacks: Do you ever get caught running errands and realize you haven’t eaten in hours? Skip the fast food and keep some healthy snacks stashed in your glove compartment. -Trash can: The garbage in my car always goes way beyond the built-in trash spot, so I bought one of these to hang over the seat. Life-changing! PS2-BLACK-3 -Change of clothes & overnight supplies: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve decided to stay overnight at a friends at the last minute. In those moments, I’m so glad I keep a stash of clothes, toothbrush and pajamas in the back of my car! -Anything you need to return or donate: It seems like I always have a pile of items to return or donate to a second-hand store, but it takes weeks to make it happen unless I keep it in my car with me. That way I can drop it off if I happen to be in the area of the store. -Wipes: Because sometimes paper towels just don’t get the job done! For the times when the roadside bathroom runs out of soap 🙂

Crash Course on Crashes!

March 26, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 2.14.20 PM

Your favorite song just came on the radio. You’re super excited, and blast your stereo speakers up. Feeling carefree, you glance down at the time and notice you’re actually going to make it to work on time today. You stop at a traffic light and suddenly a car comes screeching behind you – CRASH!

You have just been in a car accident. Now what?

1. First, check to make sure that no one got hurt. Check for injuries — not only for you and the other driver, but of all the passengers as well.

2. Next, put your hazard lights on. You want other drivers to be aware of what is happening, especially if you are still on the road.

3. Call the police as soon as possible. The police need to come to the scene and file a report, even if it is a small car accident. Make sure to tell the police officer your story, but don’t exaggerate. The insurance companies will be able to read the report and figure out who was at blame.

4. Exchange information with the other driver. Get their name, address, telephone number, driver’s license number, and automobile insurance company info.

5. Since you probably carry a portable camera on your phone,  Make sure to take some snaps of the accident. It can’t hurt to have more evidence on hand for the insurance company.

6. Last but not least, contact your insurer. Now is the time to file a claim with your insurance agency. This can be a longer process then you might hope for.

7. If your car is in a junkyard, make sure you get it out as soon as possible. If you don’t, a lot of money taken out of your claim.

Be safe out on the road. With cell phones, built-in TVs, fast food drive-thrus and more, drivers seem to be more distracted than ever. Make sure that you are not a reckless driver. Put your phone away while driving!

– Infographic from Allstate Insurance

About my Site, Behind the Wheel

How NOT to install a car seat

September 21, 2011
YAY for Baby Safety Month! (I wish I had a baby to keep safe.) 🙂 So, for all you hot mamas out there on the road, here’s a quick “how NOT to” install a car seat. There are several commonly-made mistakes when buckling up our kiddos!
  • Using an old or second-hand seat;
  • Facing your child forward too soon;
  • Not installing the seat correctly;
  • Not securing your child in the seat;
  • Letting your child drive on your lap;
  • Allowing your kid to ride shotgun.
To many these may seem obvious, but sometimes even the most obvious things escape us! Whether lugging Johnny and Sally around to and from soccer practice, picking up the dry cleaners, putting in hours behind the desk, or preparing dinner for five while maintaining our sanity, these poor mamas have a lot on their plates. So — let’s just add another checklist, shall we? Luckily there are numerous free resources to help you get your kids buckled up the right way. For one, Children’s Mercy Hospitals offers a free seat-installation clinic run by specially trained techs who can show you whether your seat is in correctly. And once a month, the McCarthy Chevrolet Service Drive provides a safe place for parents to install their safety seats with the help of local officers. I’ll let you know when the next one comes up! Meanwhile, check out this video to be reminded why the safety of our wonderful babes is so important in the first place.
Auto News, Behind the Wheel

In case of emergency … for your kiddos

January 19, 2011

This is "how not to" do it!!!

In the past, I have written blogs regarding car safety, emergency car kits, and what happens after an accident. And I’ve seemed to have  left out the kiddos! So, let me elaborate on the safety of children in your car.  In case you’re in an accident, this information will help the first-responders immediately determine the child’s needs in the safest and quickest way. If your children are in car seats, you’ll want to smack a big, bright sticker on it. Now let’s talk about what’s on that sticker:
  1. Name of child
  2. Parents’ or guardians’ names
  3. Best phone number of parent or guardian
  4. Two names and phone numbers of local friends/relatives (in case parents are not available)
  5. List of “Medical Need to Know” regarding kids
  • Any allergies – especially to medication
  • Any medical conditions
  • Type of formula (for a young baby)
  • Name and phone number of child’s pediatrician
  • Insurance information
I can’t stress the importance of car safety and preparation before getting on the road; especially if there’s a family involved! Buckle up, kiddos!