The Pack-a-Cone Safety Flashing Hazard
An amazing number of accidents occur when drivers fail
to see a person or car on the side of the road.
Whenever you see road safety professionals on the road
side, you'll see that they and their vehicles are festooned
with warning lights, and they surround themselves with
Shouldn't you do the same?
A combination of
inattentiveness, distraction, and seeing only the things we
expect to see can lead to fatal results when a vehicle collides with
a stopped car and/or its passengers on the roadside.
Plainly, any time you need to
stop, you should pull your car as far over to the shoulder as
possible, even if it means your passenger side doors can't be
opened. And as well as turning on your side lights and
hazard flashers, you absolutely should consider deploying one or
more of these safety cones as well.
Special Features of the
The Pack-a-Cone Safety
Flashing Hazard Cone has two important differences from the 'normal'
safety cones, such as you'll see ringed around any stopped
professional road maintenance type vehicle.
Firstly, it has a flashing
strobe light inside it to greatly increase its night-time
Secondly, it is lightweight
and collapsible, which makes it easy and convenient to store in
What You Get
Each cone comes in a
convenient zipped plastic pouch to protect it and ensure that
its exterior stays as brightly obvious and reflective as
The cone measures 9½" x 9½"
x 2" when collapsed and stored in its pouch, and weighs just
over 2lbs. When expanded, the cone reaches up 16".
The cone is made of bright
fluorescent red material, with two reflective bands near the
top. In the base is a strobe light that can be set either
to flash or to shine steadily (always use the flash setting for
best visibility). The white strobe shines through the
red material, making the entire cone light up at night.
The flashing strobe is
powered by two AAA batteries, which come included and pre-loaded
into the cone. The manufacturer says the batteries will
last for approximately 300 hours of use. Hopefully none of
us will ever need to have our cones deployed for more than 300
hours in a lifetime.
But, although the batteries
might seem to therefore be good for a lifetime, do remember that
batteries slowly age and expire, even if unused. For this
reason, we'd recommend writing the date of purchase on the base
of the cone, and once every five years, replacing the batteries
'whether they need replacing or not'.
The cone appears to be
reasonably weatherproof. It has a weighted base and a
light-weight canvas type cone part, making it less susceptible
to being blown over by a passing car's slip-stream, and with
simple electronics and a sealed strobe unit, it is water proof
(break-downs often seem to happen in the worst of weather, at
least for me!) too.
Why Use Cones when you already
have Hazard Flashers on your Car?
The strobe in the cone is
not nearly as bright as the flashers on your vehicle. So
why use cones too?
The first thing a cone
does is add an unusual visual element to the sight picture
that drivers otherwise have, increasing the likelihood they'll actually notice and then respond to the fact that your
vehicle (and possibly you) might be in their way.
safety cone unambiguously tells other drivers there is a
stationary hazard up ahead. A car with flashers on could
mean anything, and may or may not be moving. Cones are
much less commonly sighted, and so are a much stronger safety
Thirdly, if you're having
to change a tire or do other work on your vehicle on the traffic
side of the vehicle, while your flashers might warn other
traffic that your car is present, it won't also tell them you are alongside the vehicle. With cones, you can place
them further out into the roadway, forcing cars to steer more
clear of the vehicle and you.
Fourthly, if the reason your
car stopped is due to an electrical problem, your flashers might
not work at all.
And, fifthly, if you're parked
close to a blind corner, you can use your cone(s) to provide
advance warning to approaching cars, getting them to slow down
before it is too late.
Lastly, ignore the
theoretical issues above. Simply look at what professional
road-side workers do to protect themselves and their vehicles.
They surround themselves with many cones. Plainly they do
this for a reason, and equally plainly, you should, too.
How Many Do You Need
While writing this article,
I've been noticing that most roadside workers protect themselves
and their vehicles with not just one, but anywhere from three to
seven cones. Just yesterday, there was a large conspicuous cable company
vehicle truck with cherry-picker on top, parked on the side of a not busy, straight and wide
road. It had seven cones ranged around what was already a
very visually obvious vehicle.
Of course even one single
cone is better than none at all. And seven is probably
overkill (or is that an unfortunate word to use in a road-safety
I'd suggest three as a good
compromise, and have them laid out in a diagonal line, with the
furtherest away from your vehicle cone being also furtherest
away from the road, a little closer to the traffic than the
furtherest away side of your car, the middle cone being in the
middle, and the cone closest to your vehicle being positioned
about a foot closer to the road than the side of your car.
If you're parked close to a
blind corner, you could use your three cones to warn cars before
they round the corner.
Using the Cone
Any time you're stopped in
an 'unprotected' area with any degree of risk from passing cars,
you should deploy and activate your cone or cones.
Use the cones both during
the day and at night. Use them in good weather and in bad
weather. Always use them.
Simply take each cone out of
its protective pack, extend it to its full height and place
it on the side of the road. Place the empty protective
packs on the driver's seat in the vehicle, so you don't get in
the vehicle and drive off, forgetting about the deployed safety
The cone snaps open as you
pull it to its fully extended size, and there's no chance the
cone shape will bend or twist or collapse. But when you're
finished using the cone, it is easy to snap the elements back
down again. The cone seems able to be extended and closed
very many times without wearing out.
During the day in bright
sunlight, there's little value in turning on the flasher, but
you should probably do so anyway. With 300 hours of
battery life, you don't have to worry about conserving the
The strobe can be set for
flashing or steady illumination. We urge you to use the
flash not steady setting - the flashing is much more noticeable
than the steady light.
Try and keep the cones as
clean as possible - your life might depend on every last piece
of reflective brilliance on the cones. Handle them
carefully by the base and inside the top of the extendable cone
rather than on the main cone exterior. And always collapse
and return them to their protective pouches as soon as you're
finished with them.
The Pack-a-Cone is a simple
and easy to use safety device that might just save your life.
Keep several in the trunk of each of your cars.
It is also a great gift for
other people - chances are they don't already have one, and it
is something that everyone would appreciate.
They are available from
are priced at $24.85. At my request, they now
offer a discounted price for multiple quantities, so if you
choose to buy two or more, the price drops to $22.50 each.
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29 Apr 2005, last update
28 May 2011
You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.