When the weather warms up, it's not uncommon for families to hit the road. When you’re heading out of town on a summer road trip, it’s important to keep safety top of mind.
"When it comes to road safety, thinking ahead is critical," says John Snider, M.S., an emergency preparedness coordinator at Henry Ford Health. The best way to prepare: Keep an emergency kit that's stocked with essential supplies in your car (not in your hall closet or sitting by your front door).
Roadside Safety Essentials
Getting out on the open road is good for both body and soul. Unfortunately, if you get injured while you're road tripping and you aren't prepared with on-the-spot first-aid supplies, all bets are off.
So, before you head out on that epic adventure, make sure your car is equipped with key emergency items:
- Antihistamines: Allergies can be brutal in the spring and summer. Stock your kit with antihistamines (non-drowsy formulations if you're driving). And if you or a family member has severe allergies, make sure you travel with an EpiPen.
- Blankets: Whether it’s hot or cold outside, blankets are remarkably handy, both for keeping warm and for sitting on. If traveling through desert climates, keep in mind that temperatures can drop up to 30 degrees cooler at night. "You can even purchase compact blankets that look almost like aluminum foil," Snider says. "They're great at conserving heat and they take up almost no space."
- First-aid kit (premade): While premade kits probably don't have everything you need, they do tend to cover the basics — things like gauze, tape, antibiotic ointment and alcohol pads. The caveat: "Don't buy an elaborate premade kit if you don't know how to use the items in it," Snider says. "Focus instead on simple kits with things like topical antibiotics and Band-Aids."
- Flashlight: Keep a flashlight in your car, and make sure it has good batteries. "If you never check the batteries, your flashlight might be useless when you need it most," Snider says. Want a backup? Glow sticks are a safe and effective way to alert people where you are. You can even throw a couple on the highway so other motorists can see you.
- Insect repellent: Insects make their seasonal debut beginning in spring. To protect yourself against mosquito and tick bites, pack insect spray in your kit (one that contains 30% DEET).
- Phone charger: If you get stranded on the side of the road, or stuck in seemingly endless traffic, a phone charger is a must. Not only will you be able to call for help when you really need it, but you can also keep your loved ones informed.
- Medications: When you're driving, the most likely ailments are upset stomachs and headaches. Make sure your kit is equipped with antacids, antidiarrheals, motion sickness medication (like Dramamine) and pain-relieving medication, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen. And if someone in your family requires daily prescription medication, make sure you bring extra pills along for the ride.
- Sunscreen: Staying sun safe is always important. Keep sunscreen stashed in the car for sunny days. Your best bet: a broad-spectrum formulation (SPF 30 or higher) that protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
- Tweezers: Tweezers can come in handy for all sorts of mishaps, from splinters to ticks. Make sure you have a pair stashed in your kit or in the glovebox.
- Water: As the weather warms up, staying hydrated is critical to avoiding heat-related illness and dehydration. Having bottled water on hand can help you get sufficient fluids. It's also great for cleaning a wound and rinsing off grimy hands.
Stay Safe Strategies
When you're traveling by car, try to view your car as a safe haven where you can recharge and keep yourself safe from the elements. Spending time on the road can be a grand adventure — as long as you're prepared for mishaps.
Once you assemble a solid emergency travel kit, you can use it for months, provided you refresh supplies and always tote fresh water. Most items in the kit don't expire, so all you have to do is make sure you have fresh batteries when you hit the road.
"The biggest thing you can do to stay out of trouble is keep your head up and keep your eyes on the road," Snider says. "Most important, do not text while you're driving."
John Snider is an emergency preparedness coordinator for Henry Ford Health.