The use of these devices are meant to improve upon the safety of the situation - not place you in more harm. If you understand their use and feel confident in your ability to use them they can afford you some protection when experiencing a vehicle emergency. They also can make excellent fire starters if you get stuck and need a fire! 30 minute flares are best.
ICE4SAFETY previously discussed using electronic strobes as an alternative to flammable road flares and there is no reason you could not have or utilize both. If you have an aversion to flames, smoke or fire - or a medical condition that precludes you from using them, then by all means consider the electronic strobes. If others use your vehicle or you never travel alone and your partner or the proverbial good Samaritan that stops to assist is competent using flares....then get some. Remember flares are essentially molten burning metal. Read directions.
Roadways have curves, dips, ravines and hills that obstruct and limit the sight distance of drivers - both oncoming and from behind. Other drivers can be distracted while driving which can place you at even greater risk as you navigate your emergency scene or go to set up and use flares. Don't forget to use your vehicle emergency flashers as well. Having a DOT Class 2 reflective yellow vest in your car is an excellent idea.
- Flares can ignite leaking volatile liquid or gaseous fuel from vehicles - 100ft away is the rule.
- Proper care to ignite the flares require minimum of leather (or nomex) gloves and goggles
- Flares when lit will spit and sputter molten material and burn clothing easily.
- If you decide to assist another motorist during an emergency (very dangerous), park in front
of their disabled vehicle which might afford you some additional protection.
- Do not handle food after using flares without proper wash up - flare materials are toxic!
- Flares might be difficult to extinguish and care must be taken not to ignite other items.
- The bright light emitted by the flares can cause other-driver fixation and disorientation.
- Light from fusees is recognized quicker and is superior in both slowing traffic and detection.
- Additional flares can be ignited and deployed over time by using burning flares in position.
- Chemical Flares may be difficult or impossible to deploy if you are injured.
Flares should be positioned in a tapered pattern to direct vehicles away from behind your vehicle. Using flares on the opposite side of the roadway at the scene of a crash can help delineate the accident scene. Inclement weather (usually the accident cause) can hamper the speed of your deployment.
To determine the placement of the first flare (furthest from vehicle) use the posted speed limit - convert that to feet then multiply by a factor of 4 - (30 = 30 x 4 or 120 ft)
If the speed limit is over 50 mph, then multiply that speed by 4 and add 100 to get the distance ( 60mph = (60x4) +100 =340ft). On a curve add the distance from the bottom of the curve to the top of the curve and add to the distance calculated. A chart might help:
30 mph ----- 30 ft ----- 120 ft
40 mph ----- 40 ft----- 160 ft
55 mph ----- 55 ft ----- 220 + 100 = 320 ft
65 mph ----- 65 ft ----- 260 + 100 = 360 ft
(f/Fundamentals of Emergency Care - Beebe/Funk 2001)
If you are off the road on the shoulder out of traffic that is ideal although not perfectly safe as accident statistics and prior experience has shown us - but better than in the high speed traffic lane. Placing yourself in high speed traffic without any professional assistance in an effort to manage traffic can get you seriously injured or worse.
For a more detailed look at the various chemical and electric road safety signal devices we have a report to the DOJ 6-12-08 linked below written by the Florida Gulf Coast University Research Institute. You can make informed choices based on the report findings. http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/224277.pdf