With as much time as women spend driving, running errands and driving to and from work, they need to be alert to the opportunity they may innocently present to a violent and desperate perpetrator, to commit rape, abduction, carjacking, or worse. Violence against drivers, especially lone women drivers is increasing as the economy becomes more strained. The US Department of Justice estimates that there are at least 50,000 attempted carjackings in the US each year, with a disproportionate number of women victims.
The Scene of the Crime
Rape, carjacking, and robbery are often crimes of opportunity, in which the perpetrator scouts areas where no witnesses are present, identifies a vulnerable target, and waits for the moment when his target lowers her guard. The most common locations where many of these crimes occur are:
- When you are stopped at a deserted intersection
- When your are parked in your own driveway
- When you park at the far corner of a parking lot, away from parking attendants or entrances
- When you park on any street in ( insert your city here )
A simple lapse of caution, such as failing to lock your car door before starting your engine is an ideal opportunity for a desperate aggressor to swiftly approach your vehicle from the blind spot in your side view mirror, open your door, pull you from the vehicle, or enter from the passenger side.
The Moment of Distraction
Rapists, carjackers and thieves look for potential targets who are alone, unaware, and vulnerable. A woman who is preoccupied removing her child from the rear seat without checking her environment first, will be completely surprised when the aggressor strikes. The woman who fails to ask for the attendant to escort her to the far end of a dark parking garage is not aware of the opportunity for foul play that lurks there.
A consequence of our busy lives is the fact that we often multitask while driving. Because we are not paying attention to our environment and fully attending to the task of driving, perpetrators are finding it easier to overcome a distracted driver who is stopped, talking on a cell phone or applying cosmetics.
By the time a predator has made himself visible to his target, it is often too late to evade him. The best advice is to heighten awareness of potential risk before you place yourself in a position of no escape.
Park in Plain View.
Women should park in areas of high visibility, both for the driver and for passers-by. Avoid parking next to vans or other vehicles which can harbor perpetrators who can quickly emerge from a sliding side door and grab you. People hiding under vehicles with high ground clearance can easily subdue a hapless victim.
Prepare to Quickly Enter Your Vehicle and Lock it.
Fumbling for your keys outside your vehicle is a moment when you are distracted and vulnerable. A moment of distraction is all the thief or rapist needs. Have your key in your hand before you approach your car.
Be Alert For Suspicious Situations.
If someone is on the passenger side of a vehicle close to where you will enter your car, and that vehicle is idling, be careful. Get a store attendant or someone you feel is safe to help you to your car.
Call For Help to Assist a Disabled Vehicle.
Women who drive alone should always keep a cell phone handy in the vehicle. If you see a man or a woman waving to cars for help because their car has problems, use your cell phone to call for assistance rather than putting yourself in jeopardy.
Be Suspicious of Unmarked Police Cars.
If you have a suspicion that the flashing lights you see in your rear view mirror are not those of a real police officer, take steps to protect yourself. Pull into a well-lit area with plenty of witnesses while keeping your doors locked and windows up. Ask to see the officer’s badge number and call the local precinct station for verification. Call 911 if the person refuses to show identification or acts suspiciously.
Know the Route to your Destination.
Men are the worst when it comes to asking for directions, but women are at their most vulnerable when they are lost. Map out your route via GPS before you leave if necessary. Keep friends and family apprised of your errands and appointments, when and where you will be expected.
Your Vehicle is your Fortress and your Escape Pod.
Familiarize yourself with the anti-theft, GPS, and other protective features of your vehicle. OnStar and other equipment will alert authorities under certain emergency circumstances. Keep your vehicle well-maintained and learn to check fluids and tire pressure before you leave on a trip.
Learn the best actions to take in a set of hypothetical scenarios. On foot, if a potential abductor approaches you it is a good idea to run and make a lot of noise. Do not give him the chance to take you to a different location. Once he controls what is happening you have few safe choices. When followed go to a police station. If you discover someone in your back seat, hit your brakes, get out of the car and run. Try to plan for what you would do in these situations. It could save your life.
Safety and Wellbeing for Women Drivers
This article is intended to help women drivers learn how to be safe and secure when driving alone. Society has gotten to the point where opportunists are waiting for you to forget to lock your car doors, to allow yourself to become momentarily distracted, or to remain oblivious of your surroundings so they can strike.