If you live in or near a city, you know that traffic jams are an unfortunate reality but being prepared for them doesn’t have to be a hassle.
You might not have heard of them before, but a car congestion kit can make a world of difference when you’re stuck in gridlock. They are also known as emergency car kits.
Here, the team at car finance firm Carvine looks at why you should have one, and what it should contain.
Are car congestion kits a thing in the UK?
In short, yes! While the term ‘car congestion kit’ might not be one that you’re familiar with, the contents of such a kit will be.
The kit is simply a selection of items that can make your time spent in a traffic jam more bearable, and in some cases, even make it pass by more quickly.
Do I need a car congestion kit?
There are plenty of good reasons to invest in a car congestion kit. Firstly, it’s important to be prepared for the possibility of being stuck in gridlock – especially now that traffic levels have reached their pre-Covid19 lockdown peak.
No one likes being caught off guard and being stuck in a traffic jam is no exception.
If you have a car congestion kit to hand, you’ll be able to relax knowing that you have everything you need to make the most of a potentially stressful situation.
Also, you never know when you might have a flat tyre, run out of fuel or charge for a battery-powered car, or have an accident.
There’s no doubt that a car emergency kit can help you be prepared for anything.
Why you should have a car congestion kit
A car congestion kit is a must-have for anyone who frequently finds themselves stuck in traffic – or is travelling in inclement weather. While no one enjoys being gridlocked, a well-stocked kit can help make the situation more tolerable.
The idea for car congestion kits originated in Japan, where traffic jams are a regular occurrence. In response to this, the Japanese Automobile Association created a kit list that would help drivers deal more easily when stuck in traffic.
The contents of the original kit were simple but effective:
- Snacks and drinks
- A map
- A first-aid kit
- A torch
- A raincoat.
While the contents of car congestion kits have evolved, these core items remain essential.
Which countries use car congestion kits?
The use of car congestion kits is not limited to Japan. In fact, they have become popular in several other cities and countries where traffic jams are common.
If you find yourself frequently stuck in traffic in any of these cities, a car congestion kit is a good investment.
How much should I spend on a car congestion kit?
The cost of a car congestion kit will vary depending on its contents. A basic kit with the essential items listed above can be put together for just £10 – or up to £50.
If you want a more comprehensive kit, you can expect to spend closer to £100 – or more.
However, this is a small price to pay for the peace of mind that comes with being prepared for a traffic jam – especially if you have young children with you.
What should be in a car congestion kit?
Now that you know why you should have a car congestion kit, it’s time to look at what exactly you should put in it.
The contents of your kit will vary depending on your needs and preferences. However, there are some essential items that every kit should contain:
- Snacks and drinks: Being ‘hangry’ is the worst, so be sure to pack some snacks and drinks to keep your energy up. non-perishable snacks like nuts or fruit bars, and a drinks bottle filled with water or juice
- An atlas or map (NOT a phone app): Old-school, we know, but a physical map can be a lifesaver if your phone battery dies, or you lose signal. If you’re not familiar with the area, a map can help you find alternative routes and avoid getting lost
- Entertainment: Choose items that won’t require too much brainpower, so you don’t get frustrated – think books, magazines or puzzles. Portable games consoles and the like will help keep you occupied while you’re stuck – but you might lose battery power
- A first-aid kit: You never know when you might need it, so it’s better to be safe than sorry. Bandages, antiseptic wipes, painkillers and anything else you might need in case of an emergency
- Spare cash: In case you need to buy something crucial from a nearby shop. Could be problematic if you are the only person in the car! Do not leave your vehicle if it will create an obstruction – send a passenger instead and pull over nearby should the traffic move.
- A phone charger: For your phone or other devices, in case you need to make an emergency call or stay connected.
Being prepared with a car congestion kit will help the next time you’re stuck in traffic, so be sure to have yours ready.
Along with having items for being stuck in congestion, you might need the kit for an emergency. If so, your emergency kit should also include as a minimum the following items:
- Jumper cables
- A torch
- A reflective triangle
- A spare tyre or an emergency puncture repair kit
- A jack and a lever to remove the wheel nuts.
You may also want to add other items to your kit, such as a fire extinguisher, a blanket and a mobile phone portable charger.
Where should I keep a car congestion kit?
The best place to store your car congestion kit is in the boot. It will be out of the way, and you won’t have to struggle with it every time you need something from the glove compartment.
However, if the weather is bad or you don’t fancy getting out of your car and becoming the centre of attention when stuck in traffic, see if your kit will fit under one of the front seats. Lots of cars today have a useful drawer underneath the driver’s seat which would be ideal for this purpose.
How to use your car congestion kit
Once you have your car congestion kit assembled, it’s important to know how to use it. Here are some tips:
- First, stay calm. Getting angry or stressed will only make the situation worse. If you’re feeling frazzled, take a few deep breaths and try to relax
- Second, stay in your car. Getting out and walking around is only going to make the traffic situation worse. If you need to get out for any reason, be sure to pull over to the side of the road first
- Third, try to stay cool. It’s important to keep your cool in a traffic jam as getting too hot can make the situation even more unbearable. If possible, turn on the air conditioning in your car or open the windows to let some fresh air in
- Fourth, stay hydrated. It’s important to drink plenty of water when you’re stuck in a traffic jam. Pack some bottles of water or juice in your kit so that you can stay hydrated
- Fifth, stay entertained. A traffic jam can be frustrating, but it’s important to try and stay positive. Bring along some books, magazines or puzzles to help keep you occupied.
By following these tips, you can make the most of a bad situation and hopefully avoid getting too stressed out.
How often should I check my car emergency kit?
You should check your car emergency kit at least once a year to make sure that all the items are still in working order. You may also want to add or remove items depending on the season.
For example, you might want to add extra blankets and warm clothing in the winter, or extra bottles of water in the summer.
Remember that you should check the use-by date on any food items you add to the kit.
Why you should have a car congestion kit
There’s no doubt that if you travel in congested traffic regularly, or are planning a long journey, a car congestion kit will be a worthwhile investment.
What goes in it is entirely up to you, but you need to consider the potential scenarios where you might need one. They could include being stuck in traffic or breaking down – and the weather when this might happen.
And how much you need in it will dictate how much you will need to spend with those with young families having to consider portable video game machines or DVD players to keep youngsters occupied.
It’s also worth having a portable battery charger for your phone should your battery die, and you can’t use the car’s power to recharge your phone.
With so many choices and useful items, it might be that you need to top up the kit regularly as family members help themselves to snacks and first aid supplies when they are not stuck in traffic!