As a mom, you probably use “what if” scenarios to help you prepare for the unexpected: What if the house catches fire? What if your baby starts choking? What if your toddler swallow’s kitchen cleaner? While you certainly hope these situations never happen, you may have practiced a fire escape route, know how to do the Heimlich maneuver, and have Poison Control on speed dial.
This is why as you prepare to go on a long road trip with your children, you should not be freaked out by learning what to do if your car should break down it the middle of nowhere. Planning ahead and being proactive does not mean anything will happen—it only means that you will be well prepared to handle whatever this road trip may throw your way.
Pack an Emergency Kit
Buy or compile an emergency safety kit for your car before hitting the open road. In it include bottled water as well as shelf stable foods that won’t melt in the hot car—for instance, crackers, pretzels, granola bars, raisins, packets of tuna, and trail mix. If you don’t already have them, head to an automotive parts store and purchase some flares, emergency triangles and a set up jumper cables to add to the box. Add a flashlight, a blanket or two—even though you are traveling in the summer if you get stranded at night the kids might get chilly while you are waiting for help—and a fire extinguisher as well. It won’t hurt to add a few activities that can help you stay calm and pass time together such as a set of cards or coloring books.
Research Roadside Assistance
Consider looking into a roadside assistance service that can respond if you’re stranded and investing in a car service contract that can help reduce the amount of out-of-pocket costs you absorb should a substantial amount of repairs come your way. Protect My Car offers a number of used car service contracts and you can even select how much you’d like to save on any car repair services. Once you have these tasks completed, you can hit the road knowing you are well-prepared for anything.
Assess Your Vehicle
The first thing you should do during a vehicle breakdown is to turn on your hazard lights and pull over slowly and carefully—ideally to the right shoulder of the road. Put your emergency brake on and before you get out of the car, make sure that it is completely safe to do so. If the kids are getting upset or seem worried, reassure them that you have an emergency kit to help get you through this figurative bump in the road, and that you will be back on the road as soon as possible.
If you can safely assess the situation to determine what is wrong with your vehicle, go ahead and do so, but it’s not totally necessary. Use your smartphone to call for help—either 911, your insurance company or your roadside assistance provider. Next, set up the flares and/or triangles to alert other drivers that your car is disabled—you should put both flares behind your car, and if it’s dark, also turn on your interior emergency dome light. Try to remain as calm as you can; it will help you to think straight and also help your children to not worry. If you get thirsty or hungry while waiting for assistance, dig into the snacks and water.
Stranded Without Service
If you find yourself stranded without cell service, still dial 911. Under FCC rules, any cellular provider that picks up the signal must put emergency calls though, so even though your phone may not have service, another provider will connect your call. On some highways, there may also be roadside phones you can use to call for help. Only leave your car if you know a phone or town is nearby.
You Can Definitely Do This!
Chances are quite good that you will never have to use any of the tips in this article during your upcoming road trip. But as the saying goes, knowledge is power. Being well prepared ahead of time and knowing what to do in the case of an emergency is much better than driving for hundreds of miles with no clue what to do. By spending some time getting your kit ready and looking into a car service contract as well as knowing how to handle an actual emergency simply proves that you are a prepared and amazing mom.