How to Use Road Flares

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Use road flares to keep yourself and other motorists safe. (Photo: @meetmartin via Twenty20)
If your car breaks down on the road or you are involved in an accident, and if you cannot move your vehicle safely to its final destination or to a repair shop, road flares can help.
Road flares help oncoming traffic see any potential hazards, including a stopped vehicle. Whether you are stopped in the middle of the road or on the shoulder, the proper use of road flares can make the difference between safely having your vehicle fixed or towed or getting involved in a potentially deadly crash. This article walks you through how to obtain and use road flares.

Get the Right Equipment

Road flares should be a part of your emergency kit. If you do not have road flares, you can purchase them online or at your local auto-parts store.
With advancements in LED lighting technology, newer options include non-incendiary flares. Some of the more popular flares include:
Or you can still utilize traditional emergency flares, which require no battery power but must be handled very carefully to avoid possible burns. Watch out for expiration dates — flares typically are only good for four years. Expired flares should not be lit; dispose of them safely at a hazardous waste station.

How to Place Road Flares

Before you light any flares, you need to locate a place to put them. You want the flares to alert other passing motorists that there is an accident, stalled car, or some other object coming up. Be sure to place your flares on a level surface that is visible to oncoming motorists.
If possible, pull your car over to the side of the road. Also, turn on your hazard lights to warn oncoming traffic of your stopped vehicle.
Next, take your flares and place the first one about 15 feet behind your vehicle. Depending on how many flares you have, place at least two more behind the first flare at 30-foot increments. If you are on a two-lane road or highway, it is recommended that you place one flare about 15 feet ahead of your car to warn any oncoming traffic approaching from the other direction.
You can also use warning triangles when you do not have flares, or if you don’t have enough flares for best placement.

How to Use Road Flares

Turning on a non-incendiary flare is simple:
Step 1: Power up. Make sure you have spare batteries on hand so you can insert them. As it is not recommended to keep batteries inside a device when it’s not in use, keep the batteries close to the flare.
Step 2: Turn the flare on.
Step 3: Once your car has been fixed or towed, turn the flare off.
The use of a traditional flare requires caution:
Step 1: Remove the cap from the flare.
Step 2: Light the flare. Hold the flare so it’s facing away from you or others; keep a firm grip in the middle of the flare. Strike the end of the flare against the cap, just like you would light a match (still pointing it away from you and others). Be very careful with your lit flare and immediately place it on the ground, away from anything that could catch fire.
Step 3: Make sure the flare is out. It is important to never leave a flare lit on the road once your vehicle is fixed or moved. For a traditional flare, be sure it has gone out completely. You can use water, but never step on a lit flare to put it out.
Step 4: Dispose of the used flare. Flares cannot be thrown away in your household trash. You will need to dispose of used or expired flares in a hazardous waste disposal area.
Using roadside flares can help keep you and others safe in the event of an accident or breakdown on the road. Both traditional and non-incendiary flares can come in handy, but you must exercise some caution with the former to avoid injury.