How To Survive When Jammed In Traffic

Survival situations come in all shapes and sizes. The one thing they all have in common is that they catch us by surprise. Simply driving to work or to the beach for the weekend can put you in an unexpected survival situation; that’s why we always need to be ready, no matter what.

This lesson came home to me in a very real way a little over a year ago. I was on my way to move my youngest daughter home from college, when I was trapped in a traffic jam.

Fortunately for me, I had an extensive emergency kit with me. But even so, most of that kit couldn’t do me the least bit of good. You see, I was trapped in traffic on a 22 mile long causeway in Louisiana. There was water and wood 30 feet away from us, but that was 30 feet straight down. All we had on the causeway were cars and irate drivers.

{adinserter aliveafteramerika}The traffic jam was caused by an accident where two semis crashed into each other a few miles ahead of me. This caused one of them to explode, shutting down the causeway for miles in both directions. But for those of us who were stuck on the causeway, there was no simple solution.

I imagine a bug out situation would be similar. Miles and miles of cars, sitting on the highway, waiting for something up ahead to open up, so that we could all drive down the road. While it may not seem like much of a survival situation, it truly is. It may even be more challenging than surviving once you get to your bug out location.

Road Rage Is Real

road rageThe first thing any of us need to take into consideration when dealing with a bad traffic situation is that road rage is real. People get frustrated at the situation, take it personally and become mad. It’s not so much that they are mad at any one person, but rather that their frustration turns to anger, when they can’t figure out how to deal with the situation.

When road rage takes over, people become unpredictable. They are likely to lash out in fits of violence, striking out at the first target of opportunity. That could be hitting someone’s car with their fists or a tire iron, or pulling a gun and threatening people to get out of their way. Like I said, they’re unpredictable.

The best thing to do with these people is to avoid them. While you should be prepared to defend yourself from harm, you don’t want to look for a confrontation. Even showing that you are prepared to defend yourself could be enough to drive them over the edge.

So, you’re better off being quietly prepared. In other words, get your gun out and keep it close at hand, but don’t let anyone else see it.

Keep a close eye on your own emotions as well. You and I are just as susceptible to road rage as anyone else. We don’t need to allow the situation to get us frustrated. That could put an end to all our bug out plans. Don’t worry about the time, stay focused on surviving.

Protecting Yourself from Attackers

With road rage being a real possibility, you need to be ready to defend yourself and your vehicle. The first and easiest way to do that is to make sure that everything is locked. Doors locked and windows closed offers you the best protection that your vehicle can offer.

Try to stay inside your vehicle as much as possible. When you get out, you’re vulnerable. Of course, to do that, you need to be able to get to your survival gear from inside the vehicle. Rear seats that fold down offer an opportunity for this, just as a sliding glass window on the back of a pickup truck can make it easier to get from the cab into a camper shell on the back.

You also need to be concerned about anything you have attached to the outside of your vehicle. If you’re in a bug out, you can be sure that the vast majority of the people on the road aren’t going to be as well prepared as you are. They may look at you and your vehicle and see it as a source of supply. That could lead to them trying to steal from you.

If you have things tied all over your vehicle, they should be locked as well. Ropes and bungee cords can be cut easily enough. Run a cable through it and lock it to a hasp or eye bolt with a padlock. Don’t make it easy for others to get what you have.

Having things locked up and out of reach will stop most people, but there are always those who see that as a challenge and will want to get to you anyway. For them, you need to be ready to defend yourself.

Firearms are the best solution to that, as those people will probably be armed as well. You should hopefully have the advantage of more practice to see you through, although a show of force will cause most of them to back down.

Have Your Vehicle Prepared

car repairsLike any other survival situation, having the right stuff with you makes all the difference in the world. While it is possible to survive with what you can find, it’s never as easy. You’re much better off if you have some basic survival gear and supplies with you.

To start with make sure that your vehicle is ready for some rough use. If you are having to fight to keep your vehicle running, you’re going to have less time for other survival tasks. Your vehicle needs to be mechanically sound at all times, because you never know when you’re going to have to use it to save your life.

That also means keeping the gas tank as full as possible. I discovered years ago that it doesn’t cost any more to keep the top half of the tank full, than it does to keep the bottom half full.

Many people never truly fill their tank, but just put 5 or 10 dollars worth in at a time. I keep mine full. When it gets down to the point where it’s getting near half a tank, I start looking for a gas station. That way, I always know that I have half a tank in reserve.

I also keep a few five gallon cans filled at home, rotating them so that the gas doesn’t get old. That way, if I have to bug out, I can throw them in the back of my truck, just in case. I’ve made brackets in the back of my truck to hold them, so that I don’t have to worry about them sliding around or tipping over.

Always Have a Good Survival Kit

survival kitSince you never know when a survival situation might present itself, it’s safe to assume that you won’t know what you’ll need for that situation either. So, it’s a good idea to make sure that you’re ready for anything. That means having more than just a little survival kit in a coffee can; it means having an extensive kit that will cover every need.

When I was stuck on that causeway, I had my emergency travel kit with me. This is in a backpack and is essentially a bug out bag. But you know what? It wasn’t enough. We always assume that we’ll have a source of wood and water when we build a bug out bag.

Like I said, the wood and water were there, but I couldn’t get to them. That meant that while I had food with me, I couldn’t cook one bit of it. I didn’t have any fuel.

When traveling, you have to be totally self-contained for survival. That means having everything you need. You’ll pass through a variety of country and not all of it will be hospitable. Even if the resources are available, having to abandon your vehicle to go get those resources could mean losing your vehicle to the mob of other travelers.

I’ve added a Esbit stove to my backpack since then, along with the necessary fuel tablets for it. That way, I can always be sure of being able to cook. I’ve also increased the amount of water that I carry in my vehicle. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no such thing as too much water.

Finally, Get Away

The best thing you can do in any traffic jam situation, whether caused by an accident or due to a bug out, is to get away from the crowd. Once you are sure that you are in such a situation, start looking for an escape route.

If that means taking out across country, do it, as long as your vehicle can handle it. If it means pulling off the highway and finding a safe place to camp, do that. Sitting in traffic doesn’t help you and can make you vulnerable.

I wasn’t able to pull out of traffic when I was on that causeway in Louisiana. But I’ve had many another similar situation where I could. I always took the option of getting off the roads and to a place of safety. That ultimately saved my time, gasoline and heartache.

Once I was caught in the Rocky Mountains in a storm. A major accident shut down the highway, so I got off. It turned out that I managed to get off just in time, as it seemed that I got the last motel room in town. While everyone else was stuck on the highway, I was sleeping in comfort.

In the morning, I took off again, because the accident had been cleared. That’s not to say that the highway had been cleared though. There were hundreds of cars stranded on the road, cars belonging to people who had run out of gas, running their engines to keep warm. They weren’t prepared, didn’t take the appropriate action and ended up suffering for it.

I don’t know if any of those people died from the cold temperature, but they could have. Their stubbornness in sticking it out on the highway worked against them, preventing them from taking care of themselves and their families. Had they just taken a few precautions, or even gotten off the highway, they would have been in much better shape.

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This article has been written by Bill White for Survivopedia.

Written by

Bill White is the author of Conquering the Coming Collapse, and a former Army officer, manufacturing engineer and business manager. More recently, he left the business world to work as a cross-cultural missionary on the Mexico border. Bill has been a survivalist since the 1970s, when the nation was in the latter days of the Cold War. He had determined to head into the Colorado Rockies, should Washington ever decide to push the button. While those days have passed, the knowledge Bill gained during that time hasn’t. He now works to educate others on the risks that exist in our society and how to prepare to meet them. You can send Bill a message at editor [at]

Latest comments
  • What is your opinion of utilizing an RV as your primary bugout vehicle, with your secondary bugout vehicle “towed” behind? I own a Class A RV and keep it stocked with fuel, water, and food enough for 3 months. I live in an area of high density population, so my basic plan is either to make a decision early (before the real shit hits the fan) and head due West, or hunker down in my home (my RV is tucked away in my back yard behind a security fence) and wait for a calmer opportunity (if the REAL shit has hit the fan!) before trying to head out. The movie “Deep Impact” was filmed in my area (the Sudley Bypass was used in the final scene before the tidal wave struck, and is not far from where I live), and I’ve thought long about this. Is this a realistic plan?

  • Just want to say that was a very interesting article. Being I a traffic jam when its cold and snow.

    • Michael, It is always better, no matter what the ‘Survive in place’ nitwits say, to bug out –from a situation that will eventually kill you if you don’t–as far ahead of the actual break down as possible. Even if that means a false alarm or two.
      Especially if you are not driving a dedicated heavily fortified BOV specifically oriented to just getting you out in the fastest most reliably secure manner.

      A Motor home pulling a car is nice amenity but very prone to having a more difficult time of extricating itself from jam ups or hi-jackings. So the moment you smell something funny, hit the road. You can always go back if it turned out to be nothing major. But if you didn’t get out fast enough and now you’re stuck, it will be likely where you’ll spend eternity.

  • Have to say that was a very interesting article. Being in a traffic jam in the cold and snow.

  • Good article. Have to somewhat disagree with staying in car. You have limited view of the area and you are literally a sitting duck. You need to be mobile in a confrontation. If I had family I would have them in the car and me outside assessing and responding to threats. I f I was by myself Iwoud probably be outside most of the time.

    • You going to be carrying your gun outside the car or, or you going to leave it inside the car?

  • Bill, great points. To add to your fuel points, I also keep my fuel tanks as full as possible. I’ve found if I fill up between 1/4 and 1/2 down, I also get 1-3 mpg better fuel economy. I also try and stay in the far right lane whenever driving on multi land freeways. In case of an accident ahead, it’s much easier to take the next off ramp and get to the safer surface streets.

  • Hi, With all due respect, you gave vague generalities, not specific useful suggestions. Consider this: I trained in martial arts for 8 years. I would not give advice to a group of women who wanted to avoid attack or rape, except to tell them this: If you are not thoroughly trained so that your response is muscle memory/ automatic, then a few remarks someone makes in a lecture or video will get you killed. Similarly, you csnnot give enough suggestions to get someone out of a chaotic survival situation. Fir exampke, you cannot carry enough water with you in a bug out bag to last even 3 days ( that would be 3 gallons). Offer training and encourage people to get trained and stay trained. Linda

  • I recently acquired a stun/gun/flashlight to carry in vehicle in addition to firearm. cost $65 Less expensive models are available.

  • Having been in quite a few traffic jams myself, I have found that people at first are not confrontational and so therefore that is usually when I make my move to get away if possible. GPS is very helpful and you can often find alternative routes. People will sometimes follow because they believe you have some magic route around the jam. I have pulled into an unoccupied driveway in order to confuse them – I do not want others tagging along. The longer the jam, the more people become upset and there are always some crazies out there who will become belligerent.

  • I always wonder why the folks at the back of the line just don’t turn around and go back to the last exit. Then the next car in front of him could do the same. One time when caught in a lane shoot… The kind that was cement lane dividers for 5 miles and only one lane per shoot there was an accident in the shoot about half way through. Luckily the guy at the back did just that and we were all able to either turn carefully around in the shoot or drive carefully backwards until we were all out. No help from police either we all just followed the example of the vehicle behind us.
    Will definently get one of my bug out bags in my vehicle now and not go to empty on the tank anymore either. Thanks pam

  • I always keep candles and coffee or tuna cans in car along with a single propane stove with at least one small cylinder. Vacuum sealed containers of tea, coffee and snacks along with a minimum of a gallon of water are also good to carry with you. I have a CCW permit so I am always armed, with backup ammo if needed. Blankets or a sleeping bag are a must and raingear or a poncho so if you do need to leave your rig you can stay dry. You can put your blanket and rain gear in a vacuum sealed space bag and keep everything contained in a plastic tool box to save space and keep it all dry. Don’t forget a good first aid bag. Stay prepared my friends.