Thursday, 2 August 2012

Self Defense - Stepping Into a Car's Mr. Bean. But it's the idea that counts!


hen do we most often let down our guard? When we feel apprehensive or fearful? Or when we feel safe and secure?

I believe that we feel most secure in mini-environments, safe spaces, etc. that we happen to occupy or pass through every day. Regularity and repetition breed trust. And once the trust is there, the watchful eye becomes content – and relaxes away.

I think that’s why so many automobile accidents occur within only a few minutes of home – traveling around a corner you’ve passed a million times; driving to the mall (which by now you bet you could do blindfolded); dropping the kids off at school.

These are the roads you take in your life. Every house, every mailbox, every tree is familiar. Nothing will ever jump out at you.

That’s why I also believe that many industrial accidents occur because our attention span sometimes slips away when we find ourselves in a comfort zone of familiarity and repetition.

The car is one of those spaces we inhabit that can, after a while, become like a second skin. After a year on the road our eyes and ears are usually not as fine-tuned as in the first month of driving. Much of the attentiveness is almost automatic.

And that’s where the problem lies. At least as far as self defense is concerned.

We approach our car, usually thinking about other things. It’s the same car after all; nothing has changed. It’s in the same place as always – in the driveway, at the curb, in the parking lot - 12 months out of the year. It sits there with all the familiarity of a family dog.

Please scan the area around your car


We’re about as alert as we are when getting off the couch and going to the fridge for a sandwich.

I’ve seen –

1.  People texting, or looking down while talking on their cellphones, practically bump into the sides of their cars.

2.  People’s vision obscured, as they struggle with  big bags of groceries

3.  People looking inside their purses, fumbling for their car keys, right beside the doors of their cars

I believe in a relaxed type of watchfulness when moving about in public places. And that especially applies to entering, or leaving, a car.

I compare this to the protocol a pilot observes before takeoff: he or she goes through a check list to make sure that the plane – and everyone in it – is ready to go. It’s an important part of flight safety. The pilot goes through this procedure in a relaxed manner.

As an addendum - no hitchhikers please!


Why don’t we establish a brief procedure, one that’s also concerned with safety?

1.  As you approach your car, have your keys in hand, preferably clenched in your fist, key or keys sticking out like spikes. You don’t have to wave this weapon around. Simply hold it down by your hip, blending in with your body.

2.  Please keep your eyes up. Scan the area around your car. Are there other cars nearby? Are there people near your car? Can you see if the cars nearby are occupied?

3.  Walk once around your car. There are 3 fields of vision – distant, mid-range, and close. Test all 3. Is anyone else coming? Have you looked behind you? Are you aware of anyone following you?

4.  Before entering, always look inside your car

5.  If you haven’t already unlocked your car via a remote, unlock your car while scanning the area around you.

6.  Step into the car with the foot closest to the car first. (Never lean forward into the car in order to put something in or take something out).

7.  As soon as you’re in – lock the door. Then only put your seat belt on.

I’m sure that you have some suggestions to add to this list. Please feel free to do so.

Stay safe. I wouldn’t want you to be in a state of “red alert” all the time. But a relaxed state of awareness fits in nicely with a safe and happy day!


  1. I've also heard, though, that you should NOT lock your car while driving (except in certain contexts where carjacking is common, I guess) because it can make it difficult for you to get out if you have an accident. Do you mean it should only be locked until you leave the parking lot?

  2. Hi Mieux,

    Good point! My idea is to maintain security from the point of entry to the point where you're driving away. Once you're the car is actually in motion - yes - you ought to be able to leave the door unlocked.

    As you say, in some places carjackings are common, especially when slowing down for a red light. In places like that, I'd obviously leave the doors locked, just as a precaution.


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