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If you ever have to pull over to the side of the road, you'll want to maximize your visibility to other motorists.

The Pack-a-Cone is a great way to enhance your visibility - and therefore safety - both day and night.

 
 
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Road Safety Cone

The Pack-a-Cone Safety Flashing Hazard Cone
 

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 safety cones.

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 Pack-a-Cone

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 visibility.

Secondly, it is lightweight and collapsible, which makes it easy and convenient to store in your trunk.

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 possible.

The cone measures 9" x 9" 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.

Secondly, a 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 signal.

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 context?).

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 cones.

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 batteries.

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.

Summary

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 Magellans and 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.

Recommended.

 

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Originally published 29 Apr 2005, last update 19 Dec 2013

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

 
 
 

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