road flares

The Uses of Road Flares

The other day I was talking to a friend about what to carry in your car and the subject of road flares came up.  He had none.  Now I know that most people only think of flares in relation to a traffic accident, but they do have other good uses.
First, let’s discuss their designed use, for warnings others of accidents.  I recommend everyone carry several in their vehicle.  In case of a accident they should be placed in the road to warn others.

To determine the placement of the first flare, the one furthest from the vehicle, take the posted speed limit and  multiply by a factor of 4, at 30 miles per hour = 30 x 4 means your furthest flare should be 120 ft.

If the speed limit is over 50 mph, multiply that speed by 4 and add 100 to get the furthest distance, at 60 mph = (60×4) +100 =340 ft.  On a curve, increase the distance so that the flares can be seen by vehicle entering the curve.


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

Always remember that flares can ignite leaking volatile liquid or gaseous fuel from vehicles, keep flares 100 ft away from leaking fuel sources.

Flare materials are toxic.  Do not handle food after using flares without proper wash up.

I recommend that you buy the flares without the spikes.  They come in 20 and 30-minute sizes.  I recommend the 30-minute size for accidents

Alternate uses of road flares.  They are a great fire starter in a real emergency.  Even wet wood can be ignited by them.  If you decide to place some in your pack, you can make them smaller by cutting them down to size.  Be sure and save the end with the starter.  Put them in plastic so that they do not contaminate other items in your pack.

They can also be used as a signal device, since they can be seen for a long distance.  During Wildland fires, the fire departments often use them for starting backfires.  This is the process of burning fuel between you and an approaching wild land fire.  This should not be done other than by trained fire personnel.



3 thoughts on “The Uses of Road Flares”

  1. Howard: You missed or left out one of the least used but most effective uses of road flares: They are a weapon without peer. Innocuous, legal, inoffensive looking and useful to a fault. Once a flare is burning, the material in it, at the top of the flare, becomes liquid, and heavy. You can flip a flare and throw burning “flare material” 15 feet easily.And if you have ever seen anyone get hit with this molten material, you will understand it’s effectiveness! It is like WP! It burns and keeps on burning, and the recipient forgets about everything except getting it off his body, hard to do.Imagine a hairy belly with several drops of molten flare sitting on the “shelf!” You get the pic.Just another use for an everyday item.

  2. They can be useful for erasing hard drives as well. Lay four together, lay HD on top, and ignite. No one will ever be able to recover data from that drive.

  3. During power outages, in addition to the normal chalk or paint marking beside the door, we teach our CERTs to leave a lit railroad flare outside, but near the entrance of vacant buildings being searched, so that the evac or rapid invervention teams can find the building entrance quickly in the dark, in case someone is injured or a casualty needs to be extricated.

    Flares are also used to mark corners of helispot used for medical evacuations from casualty collection point, with green strobe or laser flare in center of LZ.

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