We’ve discussed home safety and travel safety. But since most adult Americans own or have access to a car, it’s important to know basic car safety, too! If you aren’t careful, you can be the victim of a carjacking.
Common carjacking ruses include: bumping the victim’s vehicle from behind, and taking the car when the victim gets out of the vehicle to assess damage and exchange information; staging a fake car accident, sometimes with injuries, and stealing the vehicle of a good Samaritan who stops to assist; flashing lights or waving to get the victim’s attention, indicating that there is a problem with the victim’s car, and then taking the car once the victim pulls over; and following a victim home, blocking the victim’s car in a driveway or in front of a gate.
When in your car, always keep the doors locked. Any time you drive through areas containing stoplights, stop signs, or anything that significantly reduces vehicular speed, keep your windows up.
Leave ample maneuvering space between your vehicle and the one in front of you. If you are approached by suspicious persons while you are stopped, do not roll down windows; drive away quickly.
If you are being followed or harassed by another driver, try to find the nearest police station, hotel, or other public facility. Once you find a place of safety, don’t worry about using a legal parking space. Park as close as you can, and get inside fast.
If another driver tries to force you to pull over or to cut you off, keep driving and try to get away. Try to note the license plate number of the car and a description of the car and driver. If this effort places you in danger, don’t do it. The information is not as important as your safety.
If you are being followed, never lead the person back to your home or stop and get out. Drive to the nearest police station, public facility, or U.S. mission like an Army base. (You could verify surveillance by going completely around an arbitrarily chosen block.) Always report these incidents to police.
If you are traveling alone and a car “bumps” into you, don’t stop to exchange accident information. Go to the nearest service station or other public place to call the police.
Make sure it’s the police. If you’re driving alone at night and you see a blue light, keep driving until you find a gas station and pull over there. A real cop will understand – you can sign your intentions by pointing ahead – a would-be rapist or thief will drive away.
Never, ever pick up hitchhikers! It sounds harsh but the odds are always against you unless you are street savvy, immune to hardluck stories and physically able to protect yourself. Remember two people means one behind you. That’s placing yourself in harm’s way.
When you park, look for a spot that offers good lighting and is close to a location where there are a lot of people. Lock valuables in the trunk, and lock all doors.
Extra precautions are necessary when shopping. If you take packages out to lock them in your trunk, then plan to return to the stores to do more shopping, it may be a good idea to move your car to another section of the parking lot or street. The criminal knows that you will be coming back and can wait to ambush you. By moving your car, you give the impression you’re leaving. If you think you are being followed, do not go back to your car. Return to the safety of the occupied shopping area or office building and contact the authorities.
If you have car trouble on the road, raise your hood. If you have a radio antenna, place a handkerchief or other flag there. When people stop to help, don’t get out of the car unless you know them or it’s the police. Ask the “Good Samaritan” to stop at the nearest service station and report your problem.
If you are in a parking lot or parked on the street and have trouble, be wary of personal assistance from strangers. Go to the nearest telephone and call a repair service or friend for assistance. If you feel threatened by the presence of nearby strangers, lock yourself in your car and blow the horn to attract attention of others.
By using these basic safety tips and your own commonsense, you can help protect yourself.
The Squirrel say: Remember that familiarity breeds complacency. You are naturally suspicious in new, strange surroundings. But you get sloppy visiting your local haunts. And that’s what bad guys look for, prey. Don’t help them. Make sure all your family members are on the same page. It’s easy to become a target when you’re distracted with a happy purchase, or are rushing to get home.
Police departments, security agencies, and auto insurers have published lists of strategies for preventing and responding to carjackings. Remember:
- Staying alert and being aware of one’s surroundings
- Parking in well-lighted areas
- Keeping vehicle doors locked and windows up
- Avoiding unfamiliar or high-crime areas
- Alerting police as soon as safely possible following a carjacking
- Avoid isolated and less-well-trafficked parking lots, ATMs, pay phones, etc.
- When stopped in traffic, keeping some distance between the vehicle in front, so one can pull away easily if necessary.
- If confronted, it is often safer to give up the vehicle and avoid resisting