CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC)–This week’s Interstate 95 traffic backup that left hundreds of cars stranded in Virginia is serving as a reminder for drivers to pack an emergency kit in their cars.

Morgan Dean, AAA Mid-Atlantic‘s spokesperson, shared tips for how drivers can be prepared for an unexpected event like that.

“It’s really two-fold,” he advised, “You want to have stuff in the car that can help it when it’s stuck in the snow. You also want to have items that will help you.”

Whenever a winter storm threatens the area, Dean said you should keep non-perishable food items, water and warm clothing inside of your car. To help get your vehicle going again, he said drivers should also pack jumper cables, a shovel and kitty litter in their emergency kits.

“The difference they will make to somebody on the roadway if they are stuck and having some sort of problem will be huge,” Dean said.

During the colder months, he said drivers should be mindful of the freezing temperatures, dress for the weather and keep their gas tank full.

“With the I-95 incident, having a full tank of gas before a storm hits, drivers were able to keep their heat running as long as possible,” Dean said.

He also said it’s important to fully charge your cell phone before heading out and to bring a portable charger with you so you call for help.

While it may be tempting to leave your car behind if it’s stuck, Dean said people need to be very careful when making that decision.

“Leaving your car is a very bad thing because it then becomes stuck on the road,” He said. “There’s nobody around when crews do get to it. If it goes an extreme amount of time, at some point you may have to leave your car.”

Here is a full list of essential items to keep in your vehicle:

  • Abrasive material, like sand, salt or cat litter, or traction mats
  • Snow shovel
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Window washer solvent
  • Ice scraper with brush
  • Jumper cables
  • Extra warm clothing, like gloves, hats and scarves, and blankets
  • Warning devices, such as flares or triangles
  • Drinking water and non-perishable snacks for both human and pet passengers
  • First-aid kit
  • Basic toolkit, such as screwdrivers, pliers and an adjustable wrench
  • A cell phone pre-programmed with rescue apps and important phone numbers, and a portable charger