Kidnap victim escapes: One more reason for knowing how to drive stick

Jordan Dinsmore, a 20-year-old student in South Carolina, found herself in the worst situation — kidnapped at gunpoint, and told she would be raped. But she got herself out of it using wits and bravery, and by possessing a skill the criminals did not: She can drive stick.

The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C., reports that Dinsmore left her restaurant job early last Wednesday, arriving at her apartment complex around 12:45 a.m. As she got out of her car, three men pushed her to the ground, leveled a gun at her and threatened to shoot her if she didn't stop screaming. They took her phone and purse, shoved her back into her car — then realized that none of them could operate a manual transmission.

At that point, one of the three ran off. The others, including the gunman, told Dinsmore to drive to an ATM. "I was pleading with them to just take my stuff and let me go," she said, "but they said that I had to come with them."

Dinsmore remembered what her mother, who had avoided an assault in her own college years, had taught her: Stay calm. Try to escape. "If they get you out of the public eye," she'd said, "they're going to do something worse to you and shoot you anyway."

At the drive-up ATM, she released her seatbelt to reach the machine, withdrew the maximum $300 — then made a point of leaving the belt off. They told her to drive — to a house where she would be raped.

She ran through her options. Crash the car? What if she was injured or knocked out and they weren't? Pull over and run? She might not get far before they gunned her down.

So at 35 mph, she threw the shifter into neutral, opened the door and bailed out. The car rolled on, putting distance between her and the abductors. When the car eventually veered off the road, they apparently ran away.

"I just screamed: 'Call 911! Call 911! Someone just kidnapped me and threatened to shoot me!' " Dinsmore told The State. A woman in a car stopped for her. She'd scraped up her legs, and there was minor damage to her car. She later discovered she was the seventh victim in a string of armed carjack kidnappings in the area.

Dinsmore is a criminal justice major at Midlands Tech, and wants to become an FBI agent. Based on how she handled this situation, the bureau should give her serious consideration.

Our archives are filled with cases in which a manual transmission came through in the clutch and thwarted carjacking after carjacking after carjacking. There are lots of reasons why a manual transmission is preferable. Personal safety clearly is one of them.

Or as Dinsmore says, "I'm going to be driving a manual for the rest of my life."

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