Michelle Lee is a student intern working with Maggiano, DiGirolamo and Lizzi, a law firm based in New Jersey.
If Reddit has taught us anything it’s that when traveling—even in familiar locations—paying attention to your surroundings, being cautious and wary of other drivers and trusting your instincts can be invaluable.
However, it’s worth noting that even with a steadily increasing number of single occupancy drivers it’s still relatively safe to travel alone. That being said, planning in advance so you’re capable of handling a dangerous situation could keep you safe in an unlikely or extreme circumstance.
Good planning can save you from a bad situation
In the UK you can join the National Breakdown and Recovery Service, in the US AAA to keep you from being stranded if you break down or run out of gas—as long as you have cell phone service.
Take precautions though just in case you do happen to run into trouble when you’re out of cell range, especially when traveling long distances and in the dark. Tell a close friend or family member what time to expect you, or what time you should be reaching your destination.
Always check the interior and exterior of your car before getting in, and plan for emergencies by having a full cell phone battery, emergency cash or card and phone charger.
Assess the situation if you do break down
If you do breakdown or have car troubles, you probably assume the worst has happened, but in some unfortunate cases a breakdown or tire blowout can just be the beginning if you’re not careful about how you proceed.
If you think there is something wrong with your car pull over as far as possible and turn your hazard lights on. Before getting out of the car make sure you look for oncoming vehicles, especially large trucks. In some instances cars have been hit or doors have been ripped off when they are opened into traffic.
Additionally, if another motorist is flashing their lights or signaling you to pull over do not stop your car and do not get out of the vehicle until you are in a high traffic well lit area. If the vehicle appears to be a law enforcement vehicle you are legally required to pull over, however, you are well within your rights to request to see identification before rolling down your window.
If something seems ‘off’ about the situation, call local law enforcement and explain you are being pulled over and ask if it is a legitimate officer.
Take precautions against carjacking
The final threat you don’t generally expect but need to take measures against is carjacking.
Lock your doors while driving and stash your valuables out of sight with your windows closed when possible. If you insist on keeping your window down keep the gap minimal so bag snatchers or a carjacker can’t get access to your car when you’re stopped at a light or stop sign. Carjacking is on the rise in the UK making it increasingly important to keep yourself from appearing as a viable target.
You can deter carjacking by driving in the middle lane as far from the sidewalk as possible and by not wearing expensive looking jewelry and watches while driving—especially late at night when going through towns or city centers.
If you stop for gas or food don’t leave your car unlocked, even if you are just going inside for a moment. Carjackers will sometimes frequent these types of places looking for an easy target.
Finally, pay attention to what maintenance your car needs. The chances of a tire blow out are probably more likely than a carjacking but could put you in an equally dangerous position.