According to the Harvard Men’s Health Watch, the average American spends an hour and 41 minutes driving every day. Because we spend so much time in our cars, here are seven safety tips to keep you from being vulnerable in your vehicle:
1. Always carry a bug-out bag or 72-hour kit in your vehicle. Whether you become stranded in a snowstorm, require a first-aid kit when you’re out and about or need to flee unexpectedly, having this gear readily available could save your life. To protect my family, I created the Roadside Emergency Survival & Catastrophe Universal Escape (R.E.S.C.U.E.) Pack because I couldn’t find anything suitable already on the market. If you want the same peace of mind for yourself, click here to learn more about my custom-built roadside emergency kit.
2. Don’t leave anything personal or identifiable in plain sight. Be aware that passersby can see everything in your car. So don’t leave papers with your name on them or hang your work badge from the rearview mirror. Criminals will look for information they can use to steal your identity — or, perhaps worse, stalk you. And obviously, don’t leave anything expensive in plain sight, like a GPS or a guitar case. That’s like painting a big, fat target on your car. If you can’t take your valuables with you, at least put them in the trunk. Ideally, you should put these items in the trunk before you park. If you go to a shopping mall and put your laptop in the trunk when you arrive, there is a good chance someone will see you do it.
3. Remember that movement saves lives. When you get in your car, don’t sit there and rifle through your purse or check your email. Instead, you should immediately begin driving. People who sit in their vehicles not paying attention are sitting ducks.
4. Pay attention to vehicles following you. When you leave work or a shopping center, always be aware of who’s behind you. Sometimes criminals watch people get into their car with valuables and follow them home to commit a home invasion. If you are suspicious of a vehicle behind you, make a few turns to see if the car continues to follow you. If you are indeed being followed, don’t go home. Drive straight to the nearest police station.
5. Always lock your doors. No matter where you are or how long you will be away — or even if you’re standing right next to your vehicle but aren’t in it — always lock your doors. Increasingly, criminals are stealing items while people are pumping gas. They’ll usually distract you by asking a question while their accomplice grabs things from your car.
6. In parking garages, park as close to the payment booth as possible. These areas usually have more surveillance cameras and more people around, which helps deter criminals. Thieves prefer to avoid being seen doing their dirty work. Have your keys in your hand when you return to your car after paying so you don’t waste time fumbling for them in your purse or your pockets. Glance around your vehicle as you approach to be sure no one is lurking nearby and always check the backseat before getting in.
7. Make your car look protected. In the same way I encourage you to get an alarm system for your home, I also recommend getting one for your vehicle. If you don’t have a car alarm, buy security stickers to put on the window. You could also invest in a fake car alarm, which is basically just a little red light that blinks. Put it on your dashboard and it looks like a fancy car alarm. You can purchase these clever decoys for as little as $10 on Amazon. If a criminal sees a sticker in your window or a blinking red light on your dash, this will prompt them to look for an easier mark.