Car Mirror Bag: Why It’s Important When Traveling Alone

why put a bag over car mirror when traveling alone

Traveling alone requires its own sort of preparedness. If something is going to go wrong with your vehicle, chances are high that it will happen while you’re on a road trip.

Maybe not a high chance, but it sure does seem that way.

Let’s take a sec and look at why you would want to add a white bag to your vehicle emergency kit. We will also discover more ways to have peace of mind while traveling alone.

What does a plastic bag in a car window mean?

Maybe you’ve seen vehicles with white bags or cloth wrapped around a side mirror or hanging out of the window. If you haven’t, it’s a universal signal that something has gone awry. 

Please Leave My Car Alone

Most commonly, it lets law enforcement know that the car has broken down, but you are returning.

If you utilize a MAP service (immediate motorist assistance program), hang a white bag across your side mirror so that law enforcement has no doubt that you’re coming back. Basically, you’re asking nicely that they not tow the vehicle.

Asking for Immediate Assistance

You’ll want to dial 911 if you see someone sitting in the vehicle and a white bag or towel is hanging from the car. It could signal a medical emergency, such as a heart attack or diabetes complications.

People traveling alone should never stop and try to assist themselves. You can safely pull up from a safe distance until emergency personnel arrive.

Approach with Caution

Sometimes we have good intentions and want to assist a motorist in a crisis. But bad humans exist and can trick you into pulling over for nefarious purposes. 

The dangers of traveling alone are already all around you. Call 911 if you feel someone is in trouble. Don’t take the risk if you don’t have to. 

Freeze Prevention

Plastic bags are a hack for keeping your car doors from freezing in winter weather. All you have to do is shut the bag in the car door before the frigid weather.

If you see one hanging out of the car door, it is a sign that they will come back and don’t want to struggle with a door frozen shut.

Other Car Hacks When Traveling Alone


You might never use a well-stocked car emergency kit, but it’s there when you need it.

Red Bandana

Like a white bag or towel, a red bandana lets other motorists know there is trouble.

  • Hang it from your antenna to let others know you need help. A red bandana makes a car easier to see in conditions with poor visibility.

Stock Your Kit with a Little Kitty Litter

Even if you don’t have a cat, having a little litter handy will keep you on the road when the roads are sketchy.

A Coating of Cooking Spray 

You can use cooking spray to prevent melting snow and ice from sticking to the seal of your car door.

  • Spray a layer of cooking spray on the rubber seals along the edge so you aren’t wrestling with a car door after a freeze.

A Warm Pair of Socks

You should have a pair of socks tucked into your kit for emergencies anyway.

  • Use a pair of socks as windshield wiper covers to keep the blades from accumulating ice and freezing.

All-Purpose Razor Blade

Razor blades are a must-have, especially when you’re traveling by yourself.

  • Razor blades can open cans, remove bugs and ice from windows, and cut someone if need be.

Throw in a Coffee Can

Hopefully, there’s a candle and a light in your vehicle’s emergency to-go bag. Combine those two necessities with a coffee can, and you’ve got a DIY light and heat source.

Coffee really doesn’t come in cans anymore, but you can find them on Amazon.

  • Put the candle in the empty coffee can and light it. You will get about four hours of light and warmth while waiting for the MAP service to arrive.

Remember the Duct Tape

Alright, so duct tape in a trunk does come off as suspicious, but there’s no better tool you can have in your emergency kits.

  • Duct tape makes a good patch for car damage, like flapping fenders until you can get to a safe place to have it fixed.

Extra Pair of Comfortable Shoes

You could be stuck trudging through snow or hot asphalt in a pair of flip-flops unless you pack away a pair of old tennies.

  • Throw a pair of sneakers or sturdy boots in the trunk to avoid chancing a foot injury on top of everything else.

Get to Know Your Car

Sometimes a car just needs a little attention. If you learn how to change tires and check fluids, you have a little more power when your car breaks down. 

  • Double-check the trunk for a quality spare tire, jack, and lug wrench. You can know how to change a tire, but you need a spare to do it.

Car Chargers

An extra phone charger or two is a necessity when traveling, regardless of whether you’re alone or not. 

But, you’ll want to consider what else could lose a charge. For instance, some medical devices require regular charging, and you don’t want to get caught off guard.

Tips for Traveling Solo

  • The two top priorities when planning an alone road trip are making sure your car is road ready and double-checking that your emergency kit has everything you could possibly need.
  • If you’re alone and stranded, keep the doors locked at all times. Communicate with bystanders through windows, and wait for the tow truck or emergency services to respond.
  • Keep friends and family regularly updated when you’re out there by yourself. Sharing your location through a smartwatch or phone is insurance that they know as quickly as possible if something happens.
  • Pets (especially big dogs) prevent you from getting lonely and telling others that you have a four-legged friend that has your back.
  • Stock up on food and water just in case you get stranded somewhere. Trail mix and protein bars will also save you from a growling stomach.
  • Don’t forget to get adequate sleep. It’s about protecting your safety and the safety of other motorists. F can lead to bad decisions or delayed reactions.
  • Keep up to date on weather conditions. Set up notifications and alerts, so you aren’t caught off guard in a storm or other emergency events.
  • Take breaks every couple of hours to keep yourself from getting tired. Walking around and moving wakes your body up and keeps it from getting sore and tired.
  • Consider getting a MAP service membership. Even if you don’t use it, you’ll have the peace of mind that you do have access to roadside assistance.
  • We mentioned it before, but don’t stop for stranded drivers or hitchhikers if you’re alone. If you sense an emergency, call 911.

How do you put a plastic bag on a car window?

Whether you’re protecting windows or signaling trouble, you’ll want the bag tied securely to your car window.

  1. Cut open a big plastic bag.
  2. Tuck the bag into both car doors and drape it over the car’s windshield.
  3. Keep the windshield wipers held down.

By Anita Brown

Anita Brown is our go-to contributor to our emergency preparedness website. Anita brings a wealth of personal experience and professional expertise to the table, having weathered several awful natural disasters. Anita is currently working towards obtaining her Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) certification.