A new survey out this week finds that American drivers are more likely to have junk in their trunk rather than the supplies necessary to deal with a road side emergency.
Only a scant five percent of drivers carried the all the items that experts recommend that motorists have in their vehicles should a breakdown or unexpected event occur.
Overall, men were more likely than women to be prepared for a roadside emergency by carrying at least one of the essential items, the study by KRC Research and insurer State Farm found.
Essential items include jumper cables (men 64 percent vs. women 53 percent), flashlight (men 62 percent vs. women 48 percent) and a first aid kit (men 47 percent vs. 40 percent women). Men also were more likely to check their vehicles's emergency supplies by a margin of 81 percent to 53 percent.
As this recent cold snap illustrated, hundreds of motorists found themselves in the ditch or waiting on highways for help when their vehicles stalled out. Black ice also led to scores of crashes on metro freeways. AAA logged record numbers of calls for help and as a result many drivers had extended wait times.
"Even on a relatively short trip, you can find yourself stranded for several hours. Whether it's because of a flat tire, an empty fuel tank or treacherous conditions like ice or fog, it's important to be prepared," said John Nepomuceno, a auto safety research administrator for State Farm. "These new findings highlight the importance of having the right emergency equipment so you can safely get back on the road sooner."
Nearly two-thirds of drivers admitted that they had junk in their trunk, carrying everything from toys to wedding dresses to inflatables and the ubiquitous food and beverage containers. Young parents (79 percent) were the most likely to carry junk instead of items deemed essential such as spare tires, windshield scrapers and brush, reflective triangles, blankets and clothing, nonperishable foods and brightly colored "Help" or "Call Police" distress sign. Older driver (58 percent) and non-parents (62 percent) were the least likely.
On a positive note, 96 percent of drivers had at least one emergency item in their vehicle. But only four in 10 said they check twice a year to see that their supplies are in working order. Thirty-one percent said they check once a year and 32 percent said they never check.
"Ensuring that the roadside emergency equipment in your vehicle works properly is often overlooked," Nepomuceno said. "The only thing worse than getting a flat tire is finding out that your spare is also flat."
Here is a video that I shot with AAA Minneapolis' Matt Hehl a few weeks back talking about what drivers should have in their cars for the winter season.