There are certain “Rules of the Road” that we must follow to stay safe. We can even take a defensive driving course to improve our driving and get a break on our auto insurance at the same time. We wear seat belts; new vehicles have emergency-breaking and crash avoidance systems and lane departure warning alarms. Vehicles keep getting safer to ensure everyone arrives at their destination safely.
There are also certain “Rules of the Road” to help keep us safe from being a crime victim. Just like we do everything we can to avoid being involved in a car accident, we need to do everything we can to avoid being a victim of a crime.
When driving, there are five things that we can do to help stay safe while running our daily errands. These include: offset stopping, staying focused, backing in, waiting five seconds when parking, and exercising your Second Amendment rights.
As I’m driving around the city, this is the most common mistake I see women make. This is important when you must stop at a red light, stop sign, crosswalk or any other reason that requires you to bring your vehicle to a stop. Offset stopping is when you stop with your front driver’s side and passengers side windows offset with the front driver’s side and passenger side windows of the vehicles next to you.
I try to stop at the post between the front and rear window. This makes it hard for the driver of another vehicle to see into my vehicle and seeing me. This helps to avoid eye contact or any hand signals or other forms of communication. Offset stopping also gives me enough space to escape a dangerous situation if one presented itself.
We have been constantly preached to about staying focused and paying attention to our surroundings. The biggest culprit is our phones. The next time you are stopped at a red light, look around at the drivers in other vehicles. Chances are, everyone around you took that brief stopping opportunity to pick up their phones and started scrolling or texting. I was at a restaurant recently where several other families were at different tables. Everyone was staring at their phones, completely oblivious if a crime was about to take place or if a threat had just entered the property.
Putting the phone down is just the beginning of staying focused. You need to practice situational awareness, being observant of the make and color of the vehicles around you. It is also important to start reading license plates. License plate numbers are the best way of connecting a vehicle and its occupants to a crime. You do not need to remember the whole number, just a few. Together the color, make, model and a few digits from the license plate can place a vehicle at the scene of a crime.
It is also important to “people watch.” Remembering the descriptors of people such as hair color, skin color, build, height, etc. is also important in identifying potential criminals and other witnesses. The expressions on people’s faces can tell you a lot. Are they mad, scared, etc.? These clues will let you know if you need to make proactive and defensive moves such as changing lanes, changing course or driving to a safe place such as a police station.
Whenever you park your vehicle, you should always back into your parking space, driveway or other location you will leave your vehicle. Once you are backed into your parking spot and while keeping your doors locked, gather any items you need before you turn off your vehicle and exit. The last thing you should do before exiting your vehicle is turn off the ignition. Once you return to your vehicle, the first thing you should do is start your vehicle and immediately lock your doors. Do this while staying focused on your surroundings. When you get into the habit of turning off your vehicle as the last thing you do when parking, and the first thing you do when returning, you are keeping the option of escape a possibility for safety.
Backing in allows you to do several things to stay safe. For one, it makes it harder for someone to sneak up on you. Most people that are victims of a crime while in a vehicle in the parking lot, are attacked after they pull into a parking space. This usually happens because the driver is distracted by gathering their belongings before they step out, and when they do finally open their vehicle door, it allows someone sneaking up from behind to easily enter the vehicle or grab the driver.
Another way criminals target drivers who pull into a parking spot is to block them in by pulling behind them. Criminals who are in the blocking vehicle quickly jump out, then run up and attack the unsuspecting driver. By backing in, you can see the attack coming. This allows you to take defensive action such as accessing a firearm or stepping on the gas to escape the situation.
Wait 5 Seconds
How many times do you whip into a parking spot at the local grocery store or shopping mall, throw your car into “park” and quickly bail out of the vehicle without ever looking around? Sometimes it seems that the car barely comes to a complete stop before you exit. This is because we live in a very hectic world.
Whenever you pull into a parking space, driveway or other area you are going to exit your vehicle, wait 5 seconds before you even put your vehicle into park. Keeping your foot on the brake and just look around. You will be amazed and alarmed at what you see. Not that you are seeing anything nefarious, but things you probably never even noticed before. You might see people loitering around the building you are about to enter, individuals just sitting in their vehicles, or suspicious looking characters milling about parked cars.
When you wait 5 seconds and look around at your surroundings before exiting your vehicle, you have the opportunity to see and identify potential threats instead of blindly walking into them. It also allows you to look for escape routes or safe spaces such as store entrances if you fail to identify an attacker, and you find yourself in a compromised position. You need to map out in your mind landmarks, distances and locations that could conceal an attacker.
Your Second Amendment Rights
As a last resort, having a firearm could save your life by giving you a means of self-defense if you are under attack in your vehicle. However, although the 2022 Supreme Court ruling in Bruen removes the various restrictive "good and substantial reason" clauses that prevented law-abiding citizens of certain states from carrying a firearm outside the home, be sure to check your state's laws on carrying a firearm in your vehicle. Also be aware of reciprocity laws between states before you head out in your RV for your family's summer vacation.
When you operate a motor vehicle, you are expected to drive defensively to make sure you and others arrive at their destination safely. Defensive driving also includes staying safe from criminals such as carjackers, armed robbers and other aggressors. Remember, following these 5 easy rules can help minimize the risk of becoming a victim. You owe it to yourself, your passengers and your loved ones. Drive safe, be safe!