This is the third installment in my In Case of Emergency series. The first post is What Every Mom Needs to Know in Case of an Intruder. The second is How to Protect Your Children in an Active Shooter Situation. Both have gone viral on either Pinterest or Facebook. I hope these posts are not fear mongering but helpful. Post contains affiliate links.
Note: This post does not cover what to do in a car crash as I feel that warrants an entire post unto itself.
Two college girls and a boy sweating under Florida heat in their Sunday best.
In the middle of a busy road.
Pushing an old white Chevy Blazer out of traffic into a parking lot.
You know…. a typical Sunday morning.
I can’t even remember what happened to the car itself or the final result, but as college kids we thought it was an adventure. Something to laugh over at lunch in Chili’s. Fast forward ten years. If my studmuffin minivan broke down in the middle of a busy road with my kids in it, I would not be laughing. No… no I would not.
For the third installment of my In Case of Emergency series for moms, I want to talk about how to handle roadside emergencies, particularly when there are kids with you in the car.
How to Handle a Roadside Emergency
1. Before you even leave the house
Consider joining a roadside assistance plan | The options may be limited depending on your geographic location, but even at one tow a year or a jump start for a dead battery and the plan may pay for itself. If you are a single mom or without a strong support system in your current location, this might be worth finding the money in your budget.
Get a simple and inexpensive emergency kit | You can buy these kits ready made on Amazon or assemble your own. These kits come with things like jumper cables, flashlight, a seatbelt cutter, air compressor, whistle, window breaking hammers, and first aid kits. (See below for examples) This is a handy thing to have in the car in case of your own emergency or that of someone else.
Know your warning lights | When I was a senior in high school I put a cute photograph over the area where warning lights show. I missed the light that said I had an oil leak. Twas all revealed when my engine started white smoking and I had to pay for a cracked engine block. Moral… keep your book handy and pay attention to warning lights.
Keep an extra cell phone charger | This may be the difference in getting help quick or not getting help (depending on how rural the area is). Buy an inexpensive or generic charger and keep it in your glove box.
2. Get off the road
If your engine starts to smoke, you get a flat tire, a child is having a medical emergency in the backseat, or you smell something funny, pull over to the nearest parking lot, shoulder, or emergency lane. Even if you have to drive on a destroyed tire or wheel well, this is very important (source).
If you are on a curve, try to coast as long as possible so your car isn’t positioned in a hard to see area.
If your car stops in a busy road and won’t move, do not get out (source). If it’s a high traffic area, it isn’t worth trying to wrangle your kids out and run through traffic. You’ll feel unnerved watching cars pile up and honk, but help will arrive soon precisely because you’re holding up traffic.
If your car is stuck on the road and you are in a relatively low traffic area, you may want to get the kids out of the car and go to a safer place. If it’s a road where cars typically drive 65+ mph and there are few cars, getting out may stop someone from plowing into you unnoticed.
Bring the car seat or stroller if you have babies or toddlers so they will be strapped in and unable to run towards the road.
3. Precautions to take once broken down
Call help or roadside assistance immediately if you know you’re unable to solve the issue yourself. Roll down the window on the driver’s side and put a piece of material or clothing in the window then roll it back up. This will act as a signal (a flag, if you will) you need help (source).
You can place warning lights or reflective markers (from an emergency kit below) around the vehicle to warn others to slow down.
If you’re safely off the road and waiting for help, keep the children at a comfortable temperature. Roll down the windows for warmer temps and give the kids their jackets or blankets to snuggle with in colder climes.
If a lot of people stop and mill around trying to help or waiting with you, you might want to lock your car door and keep the key in your pocket. This will keep the kids in and unknown people out.
4. Changing a flat tire
If you are a safe distance off the road, confident in your ability to change a flat, and have children who are safely in the car, old enough to stay away from the road at your instruction, or you’re with another responsible adult, change your own tire and get out of there.
Note, a State Trooper friend says one issue with changing the flat with the kids in it is movement. If they move around a lot the car can fall off the jack.
Obviously, this is dangerous. Depending on the weight of the car, how many kids you have, their ages, and your peace of mind, you may prefer to wait for help.
5. Accepting help from strangers
After talking with quite a few people, this comes down to personal preference. If you are in a familiar busy area, you may not mind accepting help from a stranger. In fact, you may consider it a godsend.
If you are in an unknown place with little to no support system and have a long wait until AAA arrives, you may prefer to tell the truth to those who stop.
You aren’t comfortable accepting help from strangers with kids around and someone will be there shortly. Honest people will understand this. My police officer friend said don’t be afraid to fib and say the police are on their way if you feel threatened in any way.
If you are uncomfortable accepting help from strangers and your car is off the road, stay in it with the doors locked. This is a safer place to explain to those who may offer help that it will be arriving soon. If you have more kids than arms, keeping everyone secure in the car is a good idea.
6. Stay with the car
While you might be tempted to truck off to the nearest Burger King and drink Diet Coke while waiting for help, staying as near to your car as possible is the best way. This way help will see both your car and you when they arrive and you won’t risk missing them. Away from harm but in sight of your car.
7. Don’t panic!
If you start to panic the kids will get scared and everyone will have contagious meltdowns. If you’ve called help, try to keep the kids calm. Explain what’s happening, sing songs, take a pool on how long it’ll take to get home or what the tow driver will look like. Don’t emotionally take on the honks, fingers, or ugly words from people who are inconvenienced by your inconveinence. After all…
“Americans will put up with anything provided it doesn’t block traffic.” Dan Rather
Here are other related posts in my In Case of Emergency series.