Every year writers brush off the story warning of the hazards of winter driving and how motorists can minimize their chances of getting stranded. And every year emergency road services get an avalanche of calls for help every time it snows or freezes.

Many of those calls could be avoided if motorists took a few moments and spent a few dollars to put together an emergency winter driving kit that would pay for itself if used just once.In fact, many items should be carried in one's trunk regardless of the season because they can be used any time to steer oneself out of a no-go situation. They should even be carried by motorists who normally rely on emergency services because they have no mechanical knowledge of a car, or are elderly or handicapped.

Any safety kit should contain matchless flares or reflectors, which can be placed a good distance in front of or behind the vehicle to alert oncoming traffic.

Do not try to do any work on the car in the road, especially if no flares or other warning devices are used. If assistance is needed, it is a good idea to wait for help away from the car, if possible, if it is disabled on or near the road.

If the vehicle is safely off the road, it is still a good idea to wear a brightly colored safety vest while looking under the hood or working around the car.

A good pair of battery jumper cables should also be carried. Be prepared to spend about $25 for a quality pair. It may mean the difference between starting and staying stranded. Many inexpensive cables look hefty but they really have a lot of insulation covering just a few strands of wire.

When jumping a dead battery, make sure both cars have their ignitions turned off.

Connect the negative cables first. Connect the cable to the negative post of the good battery, which should be marked with a "NEG" or a minus sign. Find a solid metal bracket on the engine of the dead car and clamp the remaining cable onto it, making sure the cable is out of the way of any moving parts.

This will prevent the possibility of sparks that could lead to a battery explosion. Never use a match or smoke while boosting a battery.

Connect the positive cable first to the dead battery, then to the good one. Most batteries will either say "POS" or have a plus sign on the positive terminal.

Nearly all General Motors vehicles have side-terminal battery posts, so make sure the cable clamp has a good grip on the post before turning the key.

After starting the working car and idling it at moderate speed, start the car with the low battery. Disconnect the cables in the reverse order, being sure to avoid the fan or belts.

Some sandpaper should be carried to clean off a corroded battery terminal. A wire brush may cause a spark, which could be deadly near a battery.

Carry a small assortment of tools, but make sure they are the right ones. Many U.S. models are assembled with metric-sized bolts once common only on imports. Be sure to find out which type of wrenches you need.

Many cars require special tools for even simple repairs.

Other handy items: some gas line anti-freeze, which should be added when the mercury sinks below freezing. Keeping the gas tank topped off also reduces chances of fuel line icing.

A lighter carried in one's coat can be used to heat up a key enough to thaw out a frozen lock. Try the lock on the opposite door as well; many times cold winds will freeze a lock on one side only. Spraying graphite lubricant into the lock beforehand may avoid problems later on.

A flashlight with good batteries kept in the glovebox where it is warmer, an ice scraper and snow brush are all mandatory.