Travel Safety: In Your Auto
By Meghan Gardner
One of the times that we are the easiest targets
for a criminal is when we are in our own automobiles.
The reason is quite simple: We let our guard down.
Our house is our castle and our car is simply a portable
fortress. You don't lock the doors of your house when
you are in it - why lock the doors of your car when
you are driving it? The windows are down, the stereo
is blaring and all is right with the world. Until
you get to the red light. Then, while you are anxiously
staring at the light (because it won't turn when you
aren't looking directly at it), it happens. You find
a cold piece of metal pressed against your temple
and a strange voice demanding that you get out of
your car. Hopefully, you quickly comply. With any
luck, you are able to get out of your car and manage
to run to safety (NOT turn to face the criminal) as
your car, and all of your belongings in it, speeds
So what does this mean? Am I saying you have to lock
your doors and keep the windows rolled up on the hottest
summer days all because you might get carjacked? Of
course not. What I am saying is that your car is your
fortress - so every defense that you lower, you must
make up for in awareness. If you want to keep your
windows down then simply keep in mind that there is
now no barrier between you and the outside. Automobile
windows won't stop a bullet, but they will keep a
person from making physical contact with you. They
also will keep someone from reaching into the passenger
side and grabbing your purse/computer/brief case off
of the passenger seat while you sit at the stoplight.
Locked doors will do the same.
Every time you give up one of your senses, your ability
to avoid a situation, or even defend yourself, drops
drastically. A screaming stereo is as good as wearing
headphones. Only it's more annoying to everyone else.
It's also as good as hauling around a neon sign that
flashes "Easy Target".
Instead of pulling up to the other person's bumper
at a stop sign or light, keep in mind what would happen
if you suddenly needed to drive away very quickly.
Chances are, the guy in back of you is sitting right
on your bumper. Which means you are boxed in. Always
try to leave enough space between you and the person
in front of you so that you could go around them if
need be. You will find this particularly useful even
if the car in front of you simply breaks down. Now
you don't have to wait for the guy in back of you
to realize that no one is going anywhere and he should
go around (so that you can back up and make space
enough to do likewise). Only the car behind him is
sitting on his bumper....
Instead of willing the traffic light to change to
green with the intensity of your stare, take the chance
to look around. As long as traffic is moving against
your path, you can't move. Take note of your environment.
And then, when you notice the cars slowing, take a
glance and see if it is your turn yet.
Remember, your car may be a fortress, but it is traveling
into other people's territories. Make a habit of scanning
your surroundings whenever you come to a stop. Keep
a strict eye on anyone who appears to be approaching
your car. Be especially wary of your environment when
you are the first auto at a stoplight - carjackers
prefer these vehicles because they have a clearer
avenue of escape.
A common scam for insurance fraud is for two cars
on the highway to drive slowly in the fast lane. This
gets you upset so you start to tailgate the guy in
front of you. The car in front of him (also in on
the scam) slams on his breaks for no apparent reason.
The car in front of you slams on his breaks and you
(because you are tailgating) rear-end him. As the
two of you pull over the other car keeps driving,
never to be seen again. The driver of the car you
hit often claims neck and spine injuries in addition
to damage on his vehicle. The result is your insurance
company is faced with a treat of a whopping lawsuit
(the scam). Meanwhile, you face, at a minimum, a higher
insurance bill due to an accident that is considered
your fault. Another possibility is that the guy in
the auto you rear-ended seems to have suffered whiplash
and is now considering suing you
you tailgated the wrong person.
It simply is not good enough to be a good driver.
You may be the best driver on the road - but that
doesn't mean that the guy driving right next to you
isn't the worst driver on the road. And then there
are all those scams and setups to keep in mind. Not
to mention the freak accidents.
So keep at least part of your attention on your current
environment. Take notice of anything out of the ordinary.
And stay well. Stay aware.
© 1999-2001 by Guard Up, Inc.
About The Author
Meghan Gardner is the CEO and Instructor Director
for Guard Up, Inc., a company that offers programs
to companies and organizations in martial arts,
Japanese fencing and swordsmanship (Kendo and Iaido),
European fencing, boxing and Street Defense. ASAP
Seminars, a subsidiary of Guard Up, provides assault
prevention training to clients across the country.
Mrs. Gardner is also the founder of the American
Martial Way Association, a martial arts system based
out of eastern Massachusetts. She has been actively
training and teaching in the arts and assault prevention
(with a specialty in Knife/Counter-Knife Techniques)
for 18 years. More information can be found at:
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