No matter how long you’ve been driving or how skilled a driver you are, you should always keep safety top of mind when you’re preparing to get behind the wheel.
According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), the number of carjackings increased 286% in New York City, 238% in Philadelphia, 207% in Chicago, 200% in Washington D.C., 159% in New Orleans, and 89% in Denver between 2019 and 2021.
While you can’t completely prevent vehicle crimes, you can take proactive steps to have a safer experience on and off the road. Here are some key vehicle safety tips—beyond locking your doors and checking your back seat—that everyone should be aware of.
1. Don’t Carry Keys Between Your Fingers for Protection
You’ve most likely heard of this safety method where the idea is that if you are attacked, you can jab the assailant with your keys to defend yourself. Although popular, here are a few reasons you should not make this your primary self-defense method:
- If you were to throw a punch, the key could end up cutting and causing serious injury to your hand
- You could end up dropping your keys, leaving you more vulnerable to threats as you try to pick them up
- Your assailant can take the keys, and leave you without a way to get away
Even for this method to work in theory, you would have to get close to the attacker. Why would you want to go hands-on when your attacker could be faster, stronger, or more skilled than you when you could carry a pepper spray or pepper gel that provides you protection from at least 10 feet away.
The Safe Escape 3-in-1 Automotive Safety Tool combines maximum-strength pepper gel with a seatbelt cutter and a window glass breaker, giving you a way to protect yourself against an attack from a distance and helps you get out of a vehicle.
WARNING: If you find yourself facing a car jacker with a firearm, it is best to give them your keys and run. DO NOT attempt to fight them or spray them with your pepper spray.
2. Stay Safe in Parking Lots
Whenever you’re walking to your car, and especially at night, always have your keys out. The less time you spend fumbling in your bag or pocket, the less vulnerable you are to potential threats. Bonus points if you have a personal alarm or pepper spray on your keyring for an extra layer of protection.
Always park your car in well-lit areas and back into parking spaces when possible. Backing in allows you to drive away faster in an unsafe situation or emergency.
3. Check the Perimeter Before Getting In
You probably check your backseat before you get in your car, but you should also walk a full lap around your car and check underneath to make sure no one is hiding or waiting for you. This also shows bystanders that you are actively aware of your environment and would make a would-be attacker less likely to do so.
If you’re a parent putting a child into the back of a car or a college student loading groceries, consider carrying the Personal Safety and Motion Sensor Keychain Alarm. Not only is this personal alarm heard up to 1,150 feet away, but it also features a built-in motion detector that can attach to the outside of your car with its magnetic back. That way, when your back is turned to load the car, you can be alerted if someone is approaching.
4. Don’t Sit Idle Too Long When Parked
Immediately get out of your car when you arrive at your destination to limit the time you spend sitting idle. Staying in your car to finish a phone call or finish listening to your favorite song can leave you vulnerable to potential threats
5. Keep an Emergency Car Kit Handy
You probably spend a lot of hours driving in a car each year, which means at some point, you may find yourself in an emergency while driving. Keep an emergency kit in your car stocked with jumper cables, water, a first aid kit, a car phone charger, non-perishable snacks, blankets, and a flashlight with replacement batteries.
SABRE’s PepperLight™ combines a powerful flashlight and maximum-strength pepper spray into one convenient package for safety and protection, even in the dark. Keep it in your emergency kit, but be sure to remove it if your car reaches 120°F in the summertime.
Other Car Safety Tips to Keep in Mind:
- Equip your vehicle with GPS tracking so it can be found if you are in an accident, or the car is stolen
- Check your rearview mirror for followers when driving home, and if you spot one, drive to the nearest police station
- Give yourself room in traffic to move around other cars and avoid getting "boxed in"
- Avoid using gas stations late at night, especially those near the expressway
- Consider buying a stun gun