Keeping Safe On The Highway

Arm yourself with smarts to avoid unnecessary trouble and tragedy

All motorists need to be careful on the highway to avoid becoming victims of crimes while driving; crimes that include carjacking, sexual assault, robbery and worse. The following are some tips to help keep you safe while getting from here to there.

Pay attention

Keep your sound system at a reasonable volume when driving in cities and neighborhoods, and don't space out or check your text messages at every stoplight. Carjackers and robbers rely on the element of surprise, so if you're keeping eyes and ears alert to what's going on outside your vehicle, bad guys don't have a chance to sneak up on you.

Got a beef with a roadhog? Let it be.

"For road ragers, don't engage," says NYC cabbie Mellisa Plaut, author of " Hack: How I Stopped Worrying About What To Do With My Life and Started Driving Yellow Cab," [Villard, 2008], an account of her driving adventures. "Don't even look at someone who's trying to get your attention in an angry way. Just drive on, or turn. The worst thing you can do is get into a fight. It never leads to anything good. Don't get your ego involved."

Secure your vehicle as you would your home

You wouldn't leave your front door unlocked and your windows open at home, so get in the habit of securing your car the same way. Keep doors locked when you're driving, and windows raised. If anyone approaches your window asking for directions or money in slow or stopped traffic, take a quick glance around your vehicle to make sure you're not being distracted by one half of a team. Crack the window an inch or two instead of opening it all the way if you decide to speak to a stranger.

Be vigilant in parking lots

When shopping, put your money away at the cash register, walk with purpose to your car and don't accept "help" from strangers. Have keys out and be ready to open your vehicle and secure packages, get in the car, close and lock the door and drive away. "Don't approach your vehicle if a van or other large vehicle that wasn't there before is parked next to it," says Road and Travel's Jessica Howell. "Find a security guard to walk you to your car. If a security guard isn't available, look for a nearby couple and ask for an escort. Most people will be happy to lend a moment and ensure your safety."

Don't assume an unmarked vehicle with a flashing light is a police officer.

If the car attempting to pull you over doesn't look like an official vehicle, keep driving, turn your inside light on and pull over only in a well-lit, populated area. Do not get out of your car. Angle the vehicle so you can drive away quickly if need be. Crack the window, ask to see the officer's ID, and pay close attention to his clothes. Are they worn? Do they match? If not, put up your window, drive away and call 911 as fast as you can. In case you called it wrong, calling 911 immediately will show the authorities you were just being cautious.

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