Letter Re: Pat Cascio’s Recent Post On Carjackings

Good morning, Hugh,

Pat Cascio’s recent post on preventing carjackings included this sentence: “Fifth, drive in the center lane (if possible) when on highways; this reduces your chances of becoming a ‘bump and run’ theft victim”.

I’ll agree with driving in the center lane, but stopping in the center lane is a different thing. Unless you are first in line, you’re trapped. Stopping in the curb or median lanes offers an escape route; one can drive over the curb and down the sidewalk if necessary from the curb lane, or one can cross the median or even drive in the median to get away from a threat. Whatever damage your car may suffer from climbing the curb is much less expensive than losing the car or a hospital stay. If there are cars parked along the curb, pick the median lane.

Needless to say, while stopped in traffic is not the time to be engrossed in a cell phone call or texting. Keep your head up, glance in all three mirrors frequently, and stay alert to people in other cars and especially any on foot. Car doors opening around you, especially on cars behind you, is a red flag. Nearly everyone has noticed a police car parked by itself in a parking lot, away from other cars; the officer is probably doing paperwork on the steering wheel (allowing him to keep his head up and glance around and in the mirrors frequently) and has created a safety buffer space around the car. It’s a good practice to follow.

Almost stopping a little more than a car length behind the car in front of you then easing forward a couple of feet reduces the opportunity for a “bump-and-rob” and makes it very obvious that’s what’s happening if it occurs.

We were taught in police driving school to leave space between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you when stopping; the general rule was make sure you can see pavement between your hood line and the bottom of the rear tires of the vehicle in front of you. This allows room to get around that vehicle and escape. I consider that a minimum distance and I prefer to leave a couple more feet of maneuvering room.

When driving, crowd the left edge of the lane periodically so you can see down the line of cars in front of you. Too many people focus on the back of the car in front. Brake lights coming on 10-12 cars ahead give you warning, as does seeing traffic lights changing a hundred yards ahead.

In restaurants with two drive-thru lanes, never take the inside lane; again, you’re trapped. There’s a greater threat in the outside lane but also an escape route. Leave escape space between your vehicle and the one in front; if that means a car-length gap between you and the speaker or the pay or pickup window, so be it. Everyone in line will still get their food; just don’t compromise your escape path. Never put the vehicle in park. Just keep your foot on the brake. For manual transmissions, leave it in first and keep the clutch depressed. That way if the SHTF, you can escape forward immediately. Pay particular attention when between the pay and pickup windows; your car window will be down, and it’s easy to walk between your car and the building and reach in the driver’s side window. Glance around, especially to your right and behind when approaching the windows; that’s when you’ll be most distracted with handling money or your order. If something doesn’t seem right, drive away. You can always do a lap around the restaurant parking lot and get back in line. Needless to say, keep the doors locked.

There are the usual cautions: Always keep your gas tank at least half full so you control when and where you stop. Keep your head on a swivel, looking for anything out of place whenever you’re stopped. If you have to go inside to pay, lock your car and don’t leave your wallet or purse in the car. If you always use cash, consider a prepaid credit or gas card so you can swipe and pay at the pump. Don’t pin yourself in the “alley” between your car, the pump, and the hose. It’s simple for a threat to close the alley at the front of the car, which will also block you from getting to the driver’s door. It’s usually better to work the hose from the rear and stay behind the car.

Left handers should practice shooting right-handed, because they’re at a substantial disadvantage against threats at the driver side window. If you spend a lot of time in a vehicle, consider a good shoulder holster. It’s a faster, easier draw than a hip holster inside a car.

There are more, but I don’t want to steal all Pat’s thunder. – N.K.