First-time Driver Needs More Than Seat-time


Our 16-year-old granddaughter got her first car just a week ago and is nervously practicing her driving. While Joe helps her master reverse gear (one of his favorites), I am putting together an emergency kit for her. Considering her skill and experience level, it needs to be different from the usual “commuter car kit.”

Key features of Emergency Car Kit: simple and unobtrusive.

Emergency kit for new driver

Assembling the kit for my granddaughter

Our driver’s parents have always had quite new cars, so I doubt she has ever experienced a breakdown or flat tire in the light of day, much less at night! And what if she’s driving when the anticipated earthquake hits, or El Niño (also anticipated) leaves her stranded?

So, first comes the lecture about getting the car to a safe place. Then there’s the phone call to parents and/or AAA or other emergency contact.

Now for the wait for help to arrive.

Here’s where the emergency kit comes in.

So far, I have assembled these 8 simple items, with one not yet decided on.

As always, where it makes sense I am including links to typical products — and usually products that I have bought myself — at Amazon.  Yes, I may get a small commission if you buy through the link. Of course, your price isn’t affected — and if you want to shop more, just use the link to get you to the right departments.

1. Orange Safety Triangles.  If you shop for these, you’ll discover than many come packed individually. Honestly, I don’t think one triangle serves ANY purpose for an inexperienced driver, who will tend to set the triangle too close to the rear of the disabled car. So, while Orion seems to be the leader in this category, I recommend this pack from Deflecto. It has three triangles in a carrying case: Deflecto Early Warning Road Safety Triangle Kit, Reflective, 3-Pack (73-0711-00)

(I would recommend flares for an adult, but they are not simple to light and require THOUGHTFUL decision-making before deciding where to put them. I will be writing about that in another post.)

2. Flashlights. Every car should have more than one flashlight, with extra batteries stored separately. I will have to test my granddaughter to see if she can put batteries in correctly!  (She normally uses her phone as a temporary flashlight . . .)

From a safety/visibility standpoint, inexpensive LED lights seem OK, although a better-quality light (at least 400 lumens) is preferable. This is one of our favorites: Duracell Durabeam Ultra High Intensity Tactical- 500 Lumen Flashlight 2-Pack with 6 C Batteries

3. First Aid Kit.  We have written extensively about first aid kits (See links to other posts, below.) ALL inexpensive pre-built kits are lacking – get the best one you can, then go through it and add more bandages, first-aid cream, moist wipes, etc.

4. Gloves.  She may not wear work gloves very often, and perhaps never has! But in a real emergency, protecting your hands is easy and essential. I prefer leather gloves to the rough fabric ones, and I like these because they adjust to the size of the wrist: Custom Leathercraft 2055M Split Cowhide Work Gloves, Medium

5. Emergency Radio. In the case of an earthquake, storm or other widespread emergency, your driver will need to find out what’s going on  — and cellphones may not work. Our favorite battery-operated emergency radio is the Ambient Weather radio: Ambient Weather WR-090 Emergency Pocket AM/FM/WB Weather Alert Radio with Digital Tuner and Flashlight

And since our granddaughter is pretty enterprising, I might consider the Weather’s larger cousin that operates via batteries, solar or crank: Ambient Weather WR-111B Emergency Solar Hand Crank AM/FM/NOAA Digital Radio, Flashlight, Cell Phone Charger with NOAA Certified Weather Alert & Cables

6. Blanket. My granddaughter seems to have several nice throws associated with various sports teams. If you don’t have any, or think your driver would like a new one, they are relatively inexpensive and easily packable. Here’s a link to where you can pick a fleece of exactly the right color!Super Soft Cozy Fleece Throw Blanket – 50×60 Fleece Blanket (Assorted Colors)

7. Water. Again, my granddaughter has plenty of plastic water bottles, and she can pick out the best one for her kit. However, I would recommend, as an emergency item, a bottle with a filter since we don’t know how long this water will remain untouched and unrefreshed. See the link below to our recent review of water bottle with filters.

8. Food. Teenagers seem to subsist on all kinds of snacks, so check with your driver to find the best combination of energy bars, dried fruit and candy for emergency food supplies. No use putting stuff in the kit that they won’t like or won’t touch.

9. Personal Safety. My granddaughter is tall, athletic and capable. I will discuss with her and her parents whether it makes sense to include any pepper spray in her kit (and it requires written permission). Waiting in the dark could be scary and dangerous; it may give her an added sense of security: SABRE RED Pepper Spray – Police Strength – Compact, Pink Case with Quick Release Key Ring (Max Protection – 25 shots, up to 5X’s more)

What to put everything in? Something unobtrusive.

All my teenaged friends seem to carry a variety of backpacks for school, sports, or just for hanging about. So, for the car emergency kit I selected a simple, inexpensive backpack that will attract no notice on the floor in the backseat or rear compartment.

Next step: Present the kit, take everything out, talk about how and when to use it, and have her repack it.

It will be a fun family activity, one I’m looking forward to!

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

Here are other posts with more info about emergency kits:


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