Spending $55 may save a driver's life

Terry Jackson

Would you spend $55 to make your time on the road safer?

For little more than the cost of a fill-up at the gas station, you could increase your ability to deal with most road or safety hazards. Yet few cars carry such essential items, which could prove more valuable than a $2,000 satellite navigation system.

Here's my list of essential safety items (and their cost) that should be in every car. They are available at most auto parts stores and some department stores.

  1. Can of flat-repair sealant and compressed air ($5.99 or less)
    This simple-to-use item -- attach the can's tubing to your tire's valve stem and press the button on top of the can -- seals most tread leaks and pumps up the tire so you can safety drive to a service station.
  2. Spare Tank emergency fuel ($24.99 for a gallon)
    This product reacts with even the tiniest amount of gasoline in your tank and will provide a gallon of fuel to get you to a gas station. It's safe and nonexplosive and stores in a gallon carton that can be kept in your trunk.
  3. Road flares ($6.95 for a three-pack)
    The most dangerous situation for a stranded motorist is to be stalled at night on a dark highway. Sure, your car has emergency flashers. But today, many drivers employ their flashers simply to warn others that they are driving slowly. Throwing a few roadside flares around your disabled vehicle clearly tells approaching cars that you're stalled.
  4. Tire pressure gauge ($3)
    Underinflated tires that blow out at highway speeds or under heavy loads are among the biggest causes of accidents. Even the most basic tire gauge -- the metal kind with the bar that pops out when you put it on the tire's valve stem -- can help you detect when a tire is more than 3 pounds under the recommended pressure.
  5. Window breaker and seat-belt cutter ($13.95)
    It is unlikely that you will ever find yourself in a car that has crashed into a canal or lake and is sinking. However, it can and does happen. To escape, you may need to shatter the side window.

In a more typical crash, you may need to cut your seat belt to get free of the car. Several manufacturers offer devices that combine a window punch with a retractable blade for cutting the belts. Every car should have one within easy reach of the driver or passenger.


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