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Roadside Safety Kit Tips and Best Practices

roadside kitThis article will provide a guide on preparing a basic roadside emergency safety kit.  You’re ready to hit the road. It may be just a trip across town or a trip across country, but you need to make sure that you’re ready. You have your bags packed, but are you really ready for your trip? If you don’t have a basic roadside safety kit inside of your vehicle, you are not. Here are the things you need to include in your basic roadside safety kit.

A Roadside Safety Kit Helps Protect You from Other Drivers

Defective and poorly serviced tires can fail anywhere at any time—often without warning[1].  Each year, thousands of innocent victims are killed after a tire failure causes the vehicle goes out of control and a catastrophic wreck occurs.  It is easy to recognize the health and safety risks of defective and poorly serviced tires in this context.  However, we often forget about the thousands of people killed each year on the side of the road when a tire failure simply results in a need to replace the tire.  By preparing a basic roadside safety kit, you can make sure that other motorists are able to identify your disabled vehicle and avoid striking you or your vehicle.  In preparing a basic roadside safety kit, keep these general points in mind:

What Should Go In a Basic Roadside Safety Kit?

First Aid Kit

First things first, you need a first aid kit. Accidents aren’t the only reason to keep one in your car. You may hurt yourself changing a tire or even just walking to your car in a parking lot. A first aid kit is essential. Make sure you first aid kit includes bandages, gauze, medical tape, tweezers, antibiotic ointment, and alcohol wipes, at a minimum. You should also consider keeping a tourniquet, butterfly bandages, scissors, and bottled water in your first aid kit.

A Roadside Safety Kit should include a first aid kit.

Tire Gauge

Your roadside safety kit should also include a tire gauge. In 2010, the Rubber Manufacturers Association performed a study that showed only 17 percent of American vehicles have properly inflated tires.  Use your tire gauge to check your tires at least once a month and prior to any long roadtrips.

A Roadside Safety Kit should include a tire gauge

Warning Lights/Hazards

Make sure your warning lights or hazard lights are functional by checking them once every six months. Also consider carrying extra bulbs in your roadside safety kit. Things tend to go out when we need them the most.

 A roadside safety kit should include warning lights

Jack and Lug Wrench

Your vehicle should have come with a jack and lug wrench. If it did not, you need to go purchase one sooner rather than later. You never know when you’re going to get a flat tire. You need to make sure that you have a jack and lug wrench on hand when you do.

 A Roadside Safety Kit should include a jack and any specialty lug nuts needed for the vehicle

Spare Fuses

Many of us overlook the importance of fuses. They are actually a critical component of a basic roadside safety kit. When you prepare your basic roadside safety kit, make sure you have replacement fuses on hand for the important features of your vehicle, such as your blinkers and lights.

 A basic roadside safety kit should include spare fuses

Duct Tape

It’s surprising at just how much we can do with a roll of duct tape. Make sure you keep a roll on hand in your basic roadside safety kit. You’ll never know when it will come in handy. The repairs made with duct tape are usually only temporary in nature, but it’ll get you to where you need to be to get your car repaired.

 A basic roadside safety kit should include duct tape

Jumper Cables or a Portable Battery Booster

At some point or another in our lives, we leave our headlights on or our batteries die for another unexpected reason. At times like this it is crucial to have jumper cables or a portable battery booster. In today’s day and age, a portable battery booster is actually more advisable when it comes to preparing your roadside safety kit. With this equipment you don’t rely on another individual to help you jump your car and you don’t have to worry about damaging your vehicle’s electronics.

 A basic roadside safety kit should include jumper cables


Gloves are an essential part of a roadside safety kit. Whether it’s for protection against harsh elements or to protect your hands while you are changing a tire, gloves are important when it comes to roadside safety. Make sure you have a quality, durable pair of gloves in your roadside safety kit at all times.

 A basic roadside safety kit should include gloves


You don’t know what time of day your car may break down or where you may be. This means you could find yourself in pitch darkness. For this reason, it’s crucial that you include a flashlight in your roadside safety kit. Ideally, you should have more than one and include one that you can place securely on the ground.

 A basic roadside safety kit should include a flashlight


In addition to a flashlight, you will also need batteries in your safety kit. It is important, however, that you keep the batteries separate from your flashlight. If you don’t, the batteries may not have power when you need them.

 A basic roadside safety kit should include batteries

Ice Scraper

We can’t control Mother Nature and you never know when your windshield will become covered with ice. For this reason an Ice Scraper needs to be included in your basic roadside safety kit.

 A basic roadside safety kit should include an ice scraper

Portable Compressor for Tires

A portable DC-powered air compressor can be used to inflate a tire–and is especially handy for one that suffers from a slow leak. To fix a puncture, however, you need to have it professionally repaired.  In an emergency situation, a foam tire sealant can get your vehicle back on the road quickly. Reputable tire shops will refuse to repair the tire because of the sticky residue these sealants leave inside it. Be sure to choose a sealant that’s labeled as non-flammable, and do not consider this a permanent fix.

Tow Strap

If the roads are icy it is very possible that you could end up in a ditch. Someone with a truck may be willing to help you out, but they might not have the equipment they need to do it. This is why it is very important that you carry a tow strap in your car. You may be able to get the help you need to get out of the ditch before AAA or a tow company even has a chance to arrive.


Do I need a “DOT Certified” Roadside Emergency Kit?

Not necessarily.  Large trucks and buses are required   to carry reflective devices that meet FMVSS 125, but most pedestrian vehicles are not.  Most “DOT Certified” roadside emergency kits simply refer to FMVSS 125, which is a Federal standard for the reflectivity of roadside warning devices—those orange  triangles you sometimes see next to a disabled vehicle.  FMVSS 125 refers exclusively to warning devices—The U.S. Department of Transportation does not endorse ANY roadside emergency kit.  Advertising that a roadside emergency kit is “DOT Certified” is not an endorsement for the items included in a kit.  You can view the FMVSS 125 standard yourself here:  http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CFR-2000-title49-vol1/content-detail.html


Final Note on Roadside Safety Kits

Remember, you never know what the world may throw your way. It’s important that you’re prepared, no matter what the situation may be. By preparing a basic roadside safety kit and keeping all of the above-listed items in your car, you can be sure that you can handle whatever may come your way.


[1]     The beginnings of a tread separation are “[s]o small, in fact, that you probably could never see any surface difference with your eyes.”  Bridgestone’s Real Answers, Technically Speaking, Volume 13, Issue 1;  See also http://www.nhtsa.gov/Vehicle+Safety/Tires


[2] The American National Standard for High-Visibility Public Safety Vests (ANSI/ISEA 207-2011) is the authoritative document for the design, performance specifications, and use of high-visibility vests specifically worn by public safety employees including law enforcement, firefighters and incident command personnel.  It establishes design, performance specifications, and use criteria for highly visible vests that are used by public safety industries. http://www.safetyequipment.org/c/hiviz-faq.cfm; http://www.safetyequipment.org/c/std207-2011.cfm

By: Tire Safety Group Staff