The concept of safety oriented driving is something that security teams, embassy personnel and military in dangerous areas practice as a routine. Most of it is simple common sense driven by an awareness of potential risks.
Before you ever leave the driveway, you should ensure that your car is in good working order, your spare tire is full and fluid levels are good. Your car should be prepared for the worst case scenario. Are you prepared to handle a flat tire on a dark road, in the rain? Of course you know that kind of thing always happens when you are in a cell phone dead zone. You should be prepared for that. Emergency rain poncho, flashlight, flares or emergency lighting should all be part of your emergency kit.
Start by analyzing your frequent routes. Are there dark, secluded areas on your route?
Do you drive through a high crime zone? How about areas where you simply can’t get a signal on your cell phone? How much time does it cost you to take a safer, more well lit route? Are there places of sanctuary on your route? Are there public places that are open 24 hours, hospitals, fire departments, police departments? Start by evaluating the routes you drive most frequently. Look for potential danger zones and potential zones of sanctuary. If you can change routes to decrease the risk do so. The more frequently you drive the route, the more important it is to do so. Cars break down. The more often you drive a particular route the more likely that’s the place your breakdown will occur.
Explore the roads and facilities that are just off your route. You may find that an exit you frequently pass has a hospital, police department or Highway Patrol office within minutes of the exit. Use an online mapping tool to explore. Take note of the best exits and other zones of sanctuary. It’s a lot easier to move away from danger and toward safety when you know where it is.
When walking to your car, have your keys ready so that you don’t waste time fumbling for them when you get to your car. Some suggest you can use them as a weapon, if necessary. I disagree. They are designed to unlock doors and make a poor substitute for a weapon. If you carry a weapon, have that ready and carry your keys in your weak hand. As soon as you get into your car, lock the doors. Unlocked car doors have provided an unbelievable number of opportunities for criminals. Plug your phone into the charger. Your cell phone is one of your most important safety tools and allowing the battery to go dead while driving is inexcusable. Drive with your eyes open. Be aware of the cars around you. Carjackers will use the technique of blocking you in from behind while their accomplice forces you from the car. When you approach a stop, leave a half car length between you and the car in front – maneuvering room. Don’t get boxed in.
When you arrive, look for parking that is close and well lit. Don’t be in a hurry to leave the safety of your car. Check around the car, ensuring that you’re not surrounded by cars that block your view of your destination. Don’t unlock the door until you’ve checked for surrounding pedestrian traffic. Exiting your car is a high risk time because your visibility is limited and you have little time to assess once you get out. If you’re in doubt, circle the area in your car one more time before parking.
When you transition from driving to walking, ensure you have ready access to your safety equipment (pepper spray, baton, etc.) before you leave the vehicle.
Safety Oriented Driving requires a lot of “Recognizing” and readjusting. When you begin to do this you may find that it is very mentally taxing, perhaps even exhausting. It gets easier as it becomes second nature.