Evasive practices that can help you stay safe driving a vehicle in crime zones you cannot otherwise avoid
Many of the tips here are taught to foreign service personnel working in sometimes hostile environments or in areas with high crime rates. Some of the techniques described below are also used by police officers such as the evasive distance rule. But you don’t need to be in foreign service or law enforcement to appreciate these tips. Many of the tips offered here apply to anyone that is interested in practicing a heightened state of awareness while driving.
1. Avoid being followed or noticed – If you frequently travel through a bad part of town, say on your way to work every day, it’s a good idea to be unpredictable. Change your routes (the roads you take) and your times of travel as frequently as possible. Keeping your schedule unpredictable helps you to become less of an opportunity. In essence, you are limiting your exposure to opportunists that might be looking for the next target for a robbery, carjacking, or assault. This practice means adjusting your work schedule and daily routine which isn’t always so easy for many people. However, if you plan ahead often times you will find a solution. For example, you can plan to arrive at work a little earlier and leave earlier on certain days. Furthermore, by becoming more familiar with the road systems you may be able to completely circumvent areas on particular days.
2. The evasive distance rule – If in traffic keep distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you. If traffic comes to a standstill you will want ample room for an exit. This is especially important at intersections where you are most vulnerable. Take careful note of any individuals standing around the intersection, on the side of the road, and the vehicles around you. Here it’s extremely important to use both of your side mirrors to watch for anyone approaching your vehicle from behind. See the example below.
The evasive distance rule: Leave room in front of your car for an escape. In this example there is a pedestrian-free shoulder that can be accessed. Utilize your side mirrors to monitor both the driver side and passenger side of the vehicle(s) behind you. Your rearview mirror used alone will have blind spots and you could potentially miss someone approaching. You can anticipate the situation by already having your wheels pointed slightly toward your preferred route of escape.
3. Stay alert and take a mental note of vehicles that are on the road with you. Remember details, car make, license plate, times, and other relevant details. Practicing this awareness may help you identify a vehicle that is following you.
4. Discreetly use your side mirrors to watch cars behind you to see if you are being followed.
5. Study your geographic location by using maps before you travel about. Become familiar with the road systems, hospitals, police stations, transit systems, airports and embassy locations if in a foreign country. This information will be useful in the event of an emergency.
6. Try and avoid traffic slow-downs by monitoring traffic advisories and taking different routes.
7. Keep a cell phone with you at all times in the event of an emergency. Keep your family and/or colleagues abreast of your movements and locations if you are traveling well outside of your normal routine.
8. Try not to stand out. Drive with the natural flow of traffic. Act like a native and not a tourist. Keep that map in your lap so you don’t appear lost and vulnerable. Wait until you are in a secure place before unfolding a map.
9. Keep windows rolled-up and doors locked at all times but especially when traffic is congested or approaching an intersection.
11. It’s always good to have safety in numbers. Carpool if possible.
12. Most people let their guard down when they are close to home. You are not necessarily “home safe” when you are near your home. Many serious crimes such as robbery, carjacking, assault and home invasion have been reported to transpire right in the victims’ own driveways. So you should choose a designated point, perhaps a few blocks from your home to become hyper-vigilant. At this designated point, every day, begin to seriously assess your surroundings with a heightened state of awareness. Pay particular attention that you are not being followed and develop a plan if you suspect you are. Does something seem out of place? Keep on driving and alert authorities of any suspicious activity.