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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 away.

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… all because 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.

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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:

To find more articles of interest, search on one of these keywords:

self-defense, self protection, automobile safety

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