When I first got my drivers’ license, my parents would always remind me of two things:
â€¢ Never pick up hitchhikers
â€¢ Always lock your doors
While these two things still hold true today, we live in a new world where crime runs rampant and as a collective society, we find ourselves asking if any place is truly safe. Unfortunately, the answer is no; crime happens everywhere and in all neighborhoods, from small towns to big cities, in farming communities and the midtown malls. These days, road rage has taken over our freeways, headlines scream of horrific accidents, death has occurred when a good Samaritan stops to offer help to someone who seems to be stranded on the side of the road but in reality is merely looking for an easy victim, and unsuspected motorists are often taken over by carjacking, resulting in the deaths of innocent drivers and passengers who were simply at the wrong place at the wrong time.
While some circumstances can’t be prevented, there are ways you can protect yourself when you’re behind the wheel:
1) Never pick up a hitchhiker. What was true when you were a teenager still holds true today.
2) Keep your doors locked. This applies as much as when you’re in your car as when you’re not. People often don’t lock their doors when they are running simple errands that only take a minute and this includes stepping out to get gas. Imagine going in to pay for gas only to come out and discover a stranger sitting in your car.
3) Pepper Spray. Keep it in your glove compartment or storage area but never in your trunk. There are also small sprays that can be attached to your key chain.
4) Keep your windows rolled up in unfamiliar areas.
5) Don’t stop in rest areas at night. Continue driving until you reach a well lit and more populated area.
6) Be aware of your surroundings. This is especially crucial at night. When making an exit or entrance, look around. What do you see? Can you see your vehicle? Do you see anything that looks out of place? How far is the walking distance to or from your vehicle?
7) Park in well lit areas. Park under a parking light or near a street lamp. Whenever I go to the grocery store or anywhere at night and know I’ll have to exit my vehicle at some point, I try to always park under a parking light. If those parking spaces are taken, I park as close to the door as I can.
8) Always have your keys in hand and ready to go. Don’t dig in your purse to search for keys in the middle of a dark parking garage, at your driver door or even at your doorstep.
9) Don’t park next to a cargo van if the sliding door is located on your driver’s side.
10) Carry a disposable camera in your glove compartment or purse.
11) Keep an emergency kit in your vehicle at all times.
12) Remember almost anything in your vehicle can be used as a weapon. A pencil or pen is good for poking your assailant in the eye, a laptop computer or hardback book can be used for whacking people on the head, or a penknife or small pocketknife is good for a well placed stab. I keep a baseball bat in my backseat at all times and it’s moved to the floor when I have back seat passengers.
13) A phone book and/or local map. I keep a phone book in my car which includes a local map.
14) Never let a stranger borrow your cell phone. If you come upon a seemingly stranded motorist, don’t get out of your vehicle or roll down your window all the way. Instead, let them know you’ll call for help and then drive away. Strangers who use your cell phone may be able to get information about you from your cell phone for sinister purposes or worse, may throw it, break it or keep it from you in the event that you are abducted.
15) Don’t let police intimidate you. If a police officer pulls you over in your vehicle and asks inappropriate questions, attempts to make or does make any inappropriate advances or displays any inappropriate conduct towards you, make a mental note of his name, badge number or any other identifying information and when you reach your destination, call to report it immediately. This situation happened to one of my nieces, who called to report the situation and filed an official complaint, which led to an official investigation, which I believe is still pending.
Can you think of other ways to stay safe or offer more suggestions?