I wondered if it was too doom and gloom writing a post about safety tips for women driving alone. Then I remembered my goal for this blog. I am creating applicable, practical, experience-driven content for women. The fact is, the world is dangerous for us. We can wish it wasn’t so, but wishes won’t protect us. In the simplest daily tasks, women know the meaning of head on a swivel. Vigilance as a lone-driving woman is no exception. Unfortunately, we are often seen as easier targets than other men. Half the crap that happens to women driving alone doesn’t happen when a man is present. We don’t have to like it. To be safe, though, we can’t ignore it.
My family has always been a one-car band until now, so when I was a SAHM mom, dropping off my husband and running errands, just my baby and I became the norm. When my family and I lived apart, I was always a woman driving alone.
As a teen, I was almost kidnapped and robbed a few times. This means I always look for things that don’t look or feel right. In part, due to the fact the night that I was almost taken, my gut told me something was wrong with the scene before, even if I couldn’t tell what made me uneasy about it. Instead of dismissing my feelings, I look for ones that could help if they are right.
Safety Tips for Women Driving Alone
1. Be mindful of where you park
Don’t park just anywhere. Be mindful of the distance from your destination, cars already parked, what position you would be in if the car park is lonely or empty and so on. It goes without saying that if you can help it, dark lonely places are not encouraged.
2. Scan the area surrounding your vehicle before exiting and as you approach
When you do park, look around you. Take notes. See if anyone pulls in right next to you in an empty parking lot. It might be nothing, and it might be something. For me, it was something.
I once pulled into a virtually empty lot, and shortly after, a car (full of men) pulled in right next to me. So close I became instantly aware that if I opened my door and the back door of the vehicle next to me opened, I would be trapped there. I thought it could just be me.
So I sat waiting for them to leave and or to feel better about the situation. For ten minutes, I sat there. As my unease grew, the vehicle nor its occupants left, so I did (fast). Only for the exact vehicle to pull in next to me at the next plaza/mall. I was already out of the car, though. I went inside the building and stayed there watching. They didn’t leave. Not until they could obviously see the security guard I confided in taking photos of the vehicle and the men.
Do the same when approaching your vehicle. Look for signs that something could be off. If it is or could be, do not approach alone. Get help. In this situation, it’s infinitely better to be wrong than right.
Look for signs that something could be off. If it is, or could be, do not approah alone.
3. Unlock ONLY the driver’s door
When heading to your car, unlock the door at the last possible moment before opening the door, and if your vehicle allows it, unlock only the driver’s door. Unlocking only the driver’s door prevents someone from walking up and simply getting into the car with you. If this happens and someone sees, it would appear you know the person getting in.
If you can’t unlock only the driver’s door, the distance and time between unlocking and pulling the open should be next to nothing. Remember, fluid motions.
4. Quickly scan the back seat before you get in
I’m not getting in the car if I can’t see in the back. I can’t do it. I would often place things on the seat just so. The reason is that if it’s different or disturbed, I will know with a glance. It’s simple and gives me peace that no one is back there ready to snatch me by the neck.
5. Lock the door(s) as soon as you get in
Immediately. Do nothing else first. Don’t put your bag down, take a breath or start the car. I’ve spent so many years doing this, when I get in the car now, shutting and locking the door is one fluid motion.
6. If you have a baby or children, do not hunch over to strap them in
Once I started going out driving with my daughter alone, I realized that I was disturbed by the limited field of vision and the length of time my head would be down inside the car (a sedan). So, I stopped doing it. If there were items for the trunk, I would put them in then head straight for the driver’s seat with my child in my arms. I’d then maneuver to the back seat and strap my child in. As she got older as a toddler and then bigger, she knew the drill — in through the driver’s door ahead of Mommy and over into her seat until I strapped her in and, when she could, strap herself in.
When my daughter could, I would put her in the trunk sometimes and she climbed over. She found that great fun to do and it made my life easier.
I realize this seems like a lot… But when you are a fan of true crime, live in a country rampant with crime and often hear officers of law day criminals target women with children because they are easier to control, you do your best to make yourself less of a target or at least, one that would make their plan harder to execute.
7. Never drive with unlocked doors
As women driving alone, doing so with your doors locked is implied in Tip 3 above, but just in case, here it is again. I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen people simply open car doors and drag people out or how many videos I’ve seen of women explaining how men walk up to their cars and try the door at traffic lights. It makes you wonder… How many simply get into the car and make the victims drive away with them, and we don’t hear about it?
8. Windows down, but over there
I prefer my windows up. When the weather is nice though (or too nice), I might enjoy having the windows down. When I roll the windows down, the driver’s window is either only a crack or less than halfway down. I want more control inside the car than someone can have standing next to the vehicle. If I want more air, I crack all four a little or scroll the windows opposite the driver’s side more.
9. Pay Attention as women driving alone
I have had the unfortunate displeasure of being followed (even chased) more than once. Each time, I convinced myself my persistent hypervigilance was to blame. There were times when it turned out to be just me, but every time I erred on the side of caution, and twice, it wasn’t ‘just me.’
As you drive, check out the cars around you. How long does a particular vehicle follow you? If you notice someone following you for a while, try letting them go ahead. If they remain, try little things to gauge their reaction. Slow down, speed up, change lanes, change your route and watch what they do.
Once when I was uneasy and unsure, I indicated a turn (they indicated too) and didn’t make the turn. When the car following me did the same thing, I sped up. You’d think they would realize I caught on and abandon whatever plan they had—no such luck. I was chased in a dark lonely community until we got to a busier area. That’s when they stopped.
If the worse happens…
Even after all that, you could still be in danger. So, if all fails and you end up in a situation, the next point in the plan is not to let them leave with you. When criminals attempt to take you, they aim to go somewhere comfortable for them. They depend on being able to get out of the immediate area quickly. Your best chance is to make that very hard to do. If they are going to hurt you (and I would always assume they will no matter what is said), make them do it where you are. Don’t help them get away with it by complying and leaving.
We have to be careful and safe. That means taking preventative measures and having a plan, even if we never get to follow it in the moment (fight, flight or freeze is real). You just never know.
As always, I’m interested in what you think. What are some safety tips you follow as women driving alone? Let me know in the comments.
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