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Prepare for winter driving by keeping essentials handy: part one

The number of vehicles on the nation's roadways this holiday season is up, which means more motorists than ever will brave wintry conditions and busy roads to see loved ones in the coming weeks.

Between heavy traffic and unpredictable weather, there are several obstacles that could cause a hiccup in your travel plans, such as engine trouble or a car accident on the highway. Now is a great time to think about essentials that you should keep in your car in such an event. Some basics are:

Proof of car insurance is required in most states. If you get stopped without it, your holiday road trip could come to a grinding halt until you produce proof that you are adequately insured. If you keep a copy in the glove compartment you'll be prepared for a traffic stop or an accident.

Doctor's information helps medical providers give you better care if you end up in a hospital. The earlier they get access to your medical records, the better they will be able to tailor your care. Also keep emergency contacts and information about any medications or allergies in your wallet to avoid complications.

A list of what to do after an accident helps you keep a clear head if you are involved in a motor vehicle accident. Often things move fast and it is difficult to remember what to do first, and things you shouldn't do at all. Keeping such a list handy will help you ensure that everyone is safe and you get the information you need from any other parties.

A flashlight is especially useful in winter because daylight hours are getting shorter and shorter. It can help your passengers read maps and navigate, and help you if you need to investigate any car troubles. A flashlight is also handy during the daytime if you need to look for something under a seat or in another dark nook.

A car cell phone charger is essential because getting caught without cell phone service is both inconvenient and scary. Make sure your phone is charged up so you can reach out for help if you need to.

Later this week we'll round out the rest of the list, which includes basic safety essentials to keep you and your passengers safe and moving this season.

Source: FindLaw, "10 Things You Should Keep In Your Car," Deanne Katz, Nov. 20, 2012

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