PROTECTING THE CONSUMER

SAFETY IN THE FAST LANE

At the time of the Northridge earthquake in 1994, I was living in Santa Clarita but was working in the San Fernando Valley. After staying home for a few days, I finally went into the office in order to get some work done. As I attempted to come home, however, I got stuck in a traffic jam with thousands of cars not moving as a result of all of the collapsed bridges that connected the I-5 and the 14 freeways. I sat in my car for four hours with nowhere to go.

Our vehicles are great for getting us from place to place, but we must never forget that emergencies can and will happen. So, we must be prepared for any emergency that may arise while we are in our vehicles. After interviewing literally thousands of individuals who have been in automobile accidents, I have concluded that there are many essential safety items which we should always carry in our cars, as well as having our vehicles in good working condition.

I have been preaching to my clients for many years that a disposable camera can help clarify what happened in an accident. The camera should be used to take photographs of all of the cars involved in the accident and the area where the accident occurred, as well as the injured parties, if applicable.

You should always carry an abundant supply of food and water in your car in a backpack or carry case which you can take with you if you need to exit the vehicle. Some earthquake supply stores carry food and water which have a shelf life for up to five or seven years. Any essential medications should also be kept in your car, especially for illnesses such as diabetes. Also, diapers for babies and other special necessities are a must.

Basic tools, such as flashlights with extra batteries, may also come in handy. A set of good quality jumper cables and flares are a good idea as well. You should also have on hand a full change of clothing and a blanket during the winter. A good pair of walking shoes should also be kept in your trunk.

Of course, an operating cellular phone and/or a CB radio can be your savior.

If you haven’t checked your spare tire in a while, this would be a good time to do it. Make sure that the spare tire can hold air and is easily accessible. It is not a bad idea to practice putting the spare tire on your car in your spare time (no pun intended), just in case you have to do it in an emergency situation.

Of course, there is no good substitution for vehicle maintenance. Make sure that all of your fluids are filled, and that your tires and brakes are regularly serviced and kept in good repair.

With summer arriving, you can never be reminded enough that leaving children and/or pets in a closed, locked vehicle in the middle of summer is a deadly combination. The temperature in the interior of a vehicle, in the middle of summer, can quickly rise to over 160 degrees, causing serious injury or death in a short period of time.

Never drive while tired. If you find yourself on a long trip and you become fatigued, it is better to pull over and take a short nap, rather than falling asleep at the wheel.

With the summer just around the corner, everyone will be doing more driving. Getting yourself into an emergency situation and effectively dealing with the emergency may be essential to enjoying your summer.