Safety Tips Walking to and from Your Car
Millions of times everyday day around the world people walk to and from their vehicle without incident. There are those occasions where walking to the car is fearful because some women have been attacked walking to and from their vehicles. A woman did not check her back seat before getting into her car. She said, “As soon as I sat down, I realized I was sitting on my sweater that I left on the front passenger seat. I pulled the sweater out from under me and put it back on the passenger seat. When I did, I smelled a very strong odor of onion or garlic coming from the rear passenger seat. Immediately, the back of my hair was suddenly grabbed and pulled down toward the back seat…”
Everyone is most vulnerable to attack during the first few seconds while getting in and out of a car. Incidents like panhandling and street harassment, or crimes such as robberies, carjackings, kidnappings, rapes and murders are committed around vehicles. Increased vulnerability occurs with distractions of daily life: getting to appointments, opening the car door, putting things into the vehicle, getting inside it, and closing the car door. Criminals know this.
A vehicle becomes an easily accessible target for a stalker or ex-partner after ending an abusive relationship. Most people are targeted as victims of opportunity by criminals who wait for a woman to come back to her vehicle but other women have been attacked in and around their cars by an obsessive boyfriend or husband who either “just wanted to talk” or used the opportunity to harm her.
As a rule, always be ready for a fight when getting in and out of your vehicle!
Ten Safety Tips Walking to Your Vehicle
Most times when approaching your automobile do not involve a threat, but following a few routine safety measures can make it harder for an assailant to attack you around a vehicle.
1. Pre-Plan Your Trips: Before leaving the house or any building to reduce the chances of being attacked by surprise while stopping to figure out directions. Pre-program your handheld GPS devices with your intended locations for the day.
2. Walk with Others: Before walking to your vehicle, ask for an escort or wait for other people to leave the building when going to parking structures or parking lots to deter kidnapping. Ensure everyone safely gets to their car and drives off together so no one is left stranded, especially late in the evening.
3. Sense Danger – Go back inside: Go back inside when sensing potential dangers and ask for an escort. Call the police as a last resort if security is unavailable or if only females are working and fearful to provide escort. You may have to wait a while in a safe location for the police to respond. Provide the police with detailed description of the dangers you senses of the person who is making you feel threatened or anxious. Going back inside the building from where you were leaving may be inconvenient and time consuming, but it is safer in the end. If you deny your intuitive feelings, time and convenience may be your last concern.
4. Be Ready to Open the Car Door:
- Have keys/fob out and be ready to open the car door. Do not wait to rummage through a purse, bag, or pockets looking for keys when standing next to the car door
- Carry keys or fob in the right hand for faster entry into the vehicle. Keys may naturally be used for self-defense as an improvised weapon held in a key knife position. A British woman may carry keys or fob in the left hand for opposite side driver’s seats.
- When carrying bags, even if both hands are full, place the key or fob resting over the index finger.
- Consider positioning the middle finger through a key ring to keep from dropping the keys or fob when carrying multiple or bulky items.
5. Look around and Listen to Your Intuition: Be aware of your surroundings and who is in the vicinity no matter what time of night or day.
- Scan for people watching from a distance or sitting in parked vehicles, especially vehicles with tinted windows or vans next to your vehicle because organized criminals may modify their vehicles for kidnappings.
- Consider climbing inside from the passenger side door as an option to avoid being grabbed from behind from the driver side.
- Assess moving vehicles, especially vans and vehicles with more than one male inside.
- Be sensitive to body language or people walking, appearing to be lurking or idling in deserted alleys, behind buildings, bushes, pillars, walls, etc.
- Periodically glance behind you to prevent being surprised by an attacker running up from behind you.
- Use reflections from cars or building windows to scan for unusual movement.
- Walk down the middle of parking aisles to prevent from being surprised from between vehicles or behind. Walk toward and closer to the row of parking stalls angled in your direction.
- If you perceive a stairwell in a parking structure is potentially dangerous, walk the ramps instead.
- Avoid walking close to vehicles and cutting between parked cars without assessing the type of vehicle and your surroundings to reduce becoming more vulnerable to being grabbed.
6. Check Around Your Car from a Distance:
- Scanning from a distance can identify objects that may have been placed under your vehicle. Also scan under your car, and the car next to your car door, for someone hiding. Some vehicles may offer the opportunity to hide underneath who might grab your ankles and pull you to the ground.
- When you get close to your vehicle verifying that no one is hiding by the far bumper. You can also verify that the near side tires are not flat. Continue walking past your car, casually verifying that no one is hiding along the passenger side of the vehicle, next to the wheels. This is the best place for an attacker to hide, and they may not be seen from a distance. Simultaneously, you can verify that the far side tires are not flat.
- If parked next to a pillar, take a couple more steps and ensure that no one is behind it, Then reverse back and use your peripheral vision to clear the back side of the pillar. Maintain distance from the vehicle or pillar because you have more options when out in the open than if you are suddenly rushed while getting into a vehicle where you can be pinned, or slammed against other vehicles and structures.
7. Check the Back Seat:
- Before opening the car door, check the back seat by looking through the windows to make sure that no one is hiding inside the car, lying in wait.
- At night, use the fob or electronic door opener, or turn the key to unlock the door to illuminate the interior of the vehicle.
- If your vehicle has tinted windows, use a mini-flashlight on your key chain to help look inside the car before opening the door. Vehicles with tinted back windows and larger, taller vehicles such as SUVs and pickup trucks are difficult to see inside.
- Keep blankets and clothes in the trunk so someone cannot lie underneath them and hide.
8. Open the Door and Get Inside Quickly: Maintain awareness or your surroundings. If you use a key, do not focus on the door lock or fumble with the keys. Visually identify the lock and use the sense of touch with the index finger to find the key hole and guide the key into the lock without scratching the door paint while maintaining awareness around the car. Quickly sit down inside and close the door.
9. Lock All Doors and Start the Engine: Press the car’s electric lock button to ensure all the doors are locked. If your car has manual locks, check each door to ensure that all doors are locked. A parking lot attacker may use a slim-jim to unlock a car door, and get into the vehicle through an unlocked door after you are inside.
Immediately start the engine to get the vehicle moving or positioned for a faster escape if suddenly threatened. When feeling apprehensive about a situation, do not sit in the car rummaging through a purse, searching for a favorite song to play with a CD or iPod/MP3 player, text, or talk to someone on the phone. Before making a call or sending a text message, drive to a safer location with more maneuver options that is not as vulnerable to an immediate attack.
10. Look Around as You Make Adjustments:
- Continually glance in the rear view and side mirrors to check your surroundings for any threats while getting situated, or reprogramming the vehicle’s GPS.
- At night, immediately turn on the headlamps on to see more area around your vehicle. Keep your foot on the brake to hold the vehicle in reverse for better rear illumination. Then adjust your belongings and put on your seat belt before driving.
- TV monitors in the GPS dashboard or in the rear view mirror should be used for movement recognition of threats. Do not fixate on the monitor because situational awareness is slower to the front or the sides of the vehicle.
- If you cannot program the vehicle’s internal GPS when the vehicle transmission is in reverse or park, then drive to a location allowing for faster acceleration and maneuvering if you were suddenly threatened.
If Threatened When Walking to Your Vehicle
Two considerations if you are threatened by a possible assailant when walking to your vehicle:
Confronting or running is an option if a possible assailant is following you and is blocking the only way back to the building. Circumstances may warrant running to your vehicle; consider dropping extra belongings to run faster. Depending on distance, type of shoes worn, surface conditions, an assailant can probably catch you before you can get inside the vehicle making you vulnerable to injury, robbery, carjacking, and kidnapping. Other times it may be best to turn around and apply your verbal boundary setting skills as developed in the Model Mugging Basic self-defense course. If attacked you must do what you feel is best considering the options available to you.
Your vehicle may be used as a weapon if threatened with an assailant standing in front of the car trying to stop you from leaving, especially if he is armed. He may have an accomplice who may approach from another angle and smash your window to get to you or inside your automobile. You can blare on your horn. If that does not work and you believe his intent is to attack you, driving through him may be a viable option based on the totality of circumstances. You may surge your vehicle forward or backward to get him to move before you continue your escape. You may be prosecuted in court for hitting an assailant, but your safety is the greatest priority above an assailant’s well-being. Blaring the horn and surging the vehicle provides him with a chance to get out of the way.
When safe, immediately report the incident to the law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction where the crime occurred to prevent being charged with vehicular hit and run or assault with a deadly weapon. It is better to use your cell phone to call police as soon as safely possible. Your story is more credible if you make the police report immediately upon reaching safety.
10 Safety Tips When Walking to Your Vehicle
- Pre-plan trips
- Walk with others
- Sense danger – Go back inside
- Be ready to open the car door with keys/fob
- Look around and listen to your intuition
- Check around your car from a distance
- Check the back seat
- Get inside quickly
- Lock all doors and start the engine
- Look around as you adjust yourself
Future crime prevention vehicle safety tips will address unusual circumstances when walking to your vehicle.
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