Women driving alone are still the most vulnerable to criminals acting on people in cars. Arm yourself with knowledge and you can avoid being a victim.
Before you drive
“Have a safety check done before each long trip,” suggests Arrive Alive. “Even better – learn how to change a tyre, jump-start the battery, or change a wiper blade.”
Stow your valuables out of sight. It counts just as much when you’re commuting as when you’re parking. Smash-and-grab crimes take place at stops. You pull up, survey, and before you’re finished, the door window breaks and an arm darts in and grabs your goods. Hide your valuables and it’s less likely to happen to you.
Make sure you have emergency numbers on speed dial. This includes police, ambulance, fire department and close friends and family.
Keep the car’s service record up to date. A happy car is a safe car. Avoid breakdowns in dangerous or undesirable places by having your car properly serviced regularly.
Getting to and from the car
You’re at risk when walking alone. Take these precautions to reduce that risk and increase your confidence.
- Ask someone to escort you to and from your car. It’s a few minutes of their time and it could save you terrible trauma.
- If you can’t find a friend or someone you trust to walk with you, share your live location with people who care and are online.
- Walk with intent. Criminals go for the distracted and the meek looking. Put on your lioness body language – shoulders back, legs striding, brief but confident eye contact, and even a glare if you wish. Looking like you might be serious trouble can keep you from
- Keep your distance from strangers. This includes self-titled car guards.
- If you sense someone might be following you on foot, and it is safe to do so, skip the car (where you’re a sitting duck) and go to the nearest public spot for safety. If the person seems to be getting closer quickly, increase your pace to keep a distance. Ditch the heels if you need to.
- Keep your pepper spray at the ready and remember the safety button on it. Also, hold your breath if you spray it and get away to avoid it blinding your eyes. Pepper spray should not be used inside a car, on a windy day or against someone in very close quarters because it may affect YOU and make you even more vulnerable. For that, hit the windpipe or poke the eyes as hard as you can.
Safety first in parking lots
The orderliness of a solid structure can be misleading. Parking lots are lonely places, and, coupled with big visual obstacles like pillars and ramp walls, offer criminals the perfect opportunity to advance on you.
- Park in well-lit areas with security cameras. Even if they don’t work, they’re a deterrent to petty criminals. If you can park near the security booth, do so.
- Watch your back from long before the parking lot. Somebody could be trailing you to your car from inside the mall/club/restaurant already.
- Check under the car when approaching. If you see anything under there, get away immediately.
- Criminals assume you’ll take the driver’s seat if you’re walking to your car alone. If you feel unsafe/watched, and you can’t get away, get into the passenger seat (which can suggest someone else is coming to join you) and slide across and get the engine started ASAP.
There’s a lot you can do to reduce the chances of breaking down and being stranded.
- Enough fuel (and you can keep a fuel-safe plastic container in the boot with a little extra. Calculate how much you’ll need and put a little extra in, and plot your pit stops to refuel well ahead of needing to.
- Tyres at the right pressure with the right tread?
- Car service up to date?
- Hazard lights working? Indicators? Headlights, parking lights, reverse lights, interior lights?
- Keep a torch with charged batteries, in case.
If you are about to break down, do this
“If you can feel that your car is verging on breaking down,” advises AutoZone, “try making your way to the nearest possible well-lit or busy area such as a petrol station.” Get right off the road if your car does die on you. AutoZone continues with clear steps to protect yourself: “turn your hazard lights on and stay locked in your car to call for help.”
Feel ready to hit the road? Watch out for part II of this important subject, where we put you in the driver’s seat with more smart tips to avoid being the victim of car-based crimes against women.