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Posted on Tue. Mar. 25, 2014 - 12:01 am EDT

Will your trunk save you?

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FORT WAYNE — Chad Mimmar says he was coming out of a hardware store a few months ago when another man approached him in the parking lot and asked if he could get his car jump-started. Mimmar said sure. But when he opened his trunk to get his jumper cables, the cables weren’t there. That’s when Mimmar remembered he had lent them to a neighbor, who still had them.

“I really thought I had ’em in there,” says Mimmar. “I hadn’t needed them for quite a while, so I guess I didn’t think about it. I kinda felt bad for the guy, but he found somebody else to give him a jump.”

It’s been that kind of winter, when everything from shovels to boots to extra 40-pound bags of salt have been necessary to survive this thing called the polar vortex, which has also been a polar bear; and we’re not talking about the animal.

Certainly, the trunk of your car should have hauled more than a spare tire these past few months. Some time or another, you’ve seen the list of necessities: the shovel, the flashlight, the blanket, the granola bars, and yep, the jumper cables.

But not everyone has an organized trunk that would pass inspection.

In a study conducted by State Farm Insurance and KRC Research, two-thirds of drivers (67 percent) had some sort of junk in their trunk.

So we asked folks in a grocery store parking lot to pop their trunks in order to get a peek.

There was a ladder, many sets of golf clubs and golf shoes, clay pots – some that were broken – numerous empty bags from fast food restaurants (including dried chicken bones), one trunk chock- full with newspapers, a broken swing set and a chain saw.

Congratulations to the many who had jumper cables and a spare tire.

“Even on a relatively short trip, you can find yourself stranded for several hours,” John Nepomuceno wrote in a State Farm statement. He is the agency’s auto safety research administrator. “Whether it’s because of a flat tire, an empty fuel tank or treacherous conditions like ice or fog, it’s important to be prepared,” he wrote.

The study concluded that men were more likely than women to have at least one of the essential emergency supplies.

More men had jumper cables (64 percent to 53 percent), a flashlight (62 percent and 48 percent) and a first-aid kit (47 percent to 40 percent). Eighty-one percent of the men were more likely to check their vehicle’s emergency supplies versus 53 percent of women.

The survey also revealed that parents (77 percent), younger (79 percent) and middle-aged (73 percent) drivers were more likely to have the aforementioned “junk” in their trunks than non-parents (62 percent) and older drivers (58 percent).

State Farm has issued a suggested list of roadside emergency items. They are: hazard triangle with reflectors, first-aid kit, jumper cables, windshield scraper and brush, spare tire, blanks and extra warm clothing, cell phone and charger, high-calorie, non-perishable food, road salt or cat litter, brightly-colored distress sign or “help” or “call police” flag, candle, matches or lighter, flashlight and a tarp for sitting or kneeling in snow for exterior work.

“Ensuring that the roadside emergency equipment in your vehicle works properly is often overlooked,” Nepomuceno says. “In fact, according to the State Farm survey, a majority of drivers with emergency car supplies are putting themselves at risk by failing to regularly check that their equipment is working properly. The only thing worse than getting a flat tire is finding out that your spare is also flat.”

When one of the volunteers opened her trunk for inspection, the elderly woman wasn’t sure where the spare tire was located.

“I think it’s under all this stuff,” she says, pointing inside the trunk, where at least a dozen cardboard boxes of tools were. “I don’t know how many times I’ve told my husband to get rid of all this junk, but he says he needs them.”

She puts her groceries in the back seat and drives off.

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