It is unsettling to recognize that women are more likely to be attacked when driving alone. We give you 7 expert tips on how to stay safe and dominate your freedom to drive solo.
Contrary to the popular fiery discussion – “Who’s a safer driver – women or men?
”, a recent study
found that women are much safer drivers and are less likely than men to get into a road accident. The research, conducted by Crosstown in Los Angeles, discovered that 60% of car accidents were caused by men. One explanation is because men are believed to engage in riskier behavior while on the road. However, the statistics change quickly when talking about the safety of women driving alone.
Regrettably, we frequently see the news reporting how a woman was violently attacked, carjacked, robbed, raped, or worse simply because they were driving alone. These crimes usually happen while stopping to get gas, being stranded on the side of the road, walking to a parked vehicle, pulling over to get directions, and in rare instances, getting stopped by someone posing as a police officer.
It is not our intent to evoke anxiety, rather to bring awareness and offer tools that you can immediately use to stay safe and self-assured the next time you need to drive alone.
1. Plan Your Route
Planning your route
takes a bit of work and discipline, but by getting into the habit of mapping it out you ensure a risk-free trip. With good planning you can avoid streets with poor lighting or in areas known for high crime rates. It also helps prevent getting lost, which is what attackers count on to target vulnerable female drivers. There are several apps including Google Maps, Apple Maps or CityMapper that can aid in mapping your route. One interesting side note is that there are other mapping apps
being developed by women entrepreneurs to address the safety concerns of solo women drivers.
As part of your planning, make sure to inform others of your trip and set some check in points along the way–particularly when traveling long distances. Something else to consider is checking that your vehicle has enough gas to reach your destination. Make it a routine to fill up before your gasoline gauge reaches a 1/4 tank full; this way you never have to worry about running out of gas. And if you need to stop for gas, always select gas stations that you’re comfortable and familiar with.
2. Keep Up on Vehicle Maintenance
A frightening feeling is to find yourself broken down on the side of a road in an unfamiliar and dark place. Keeping up on vehicle maintenance
offers you many benefits. This can include saving you money on costly future repairs, but most of all, having a well-maintained vehicle avoids unanticipated and fear-provoking breakdowns. Good vehicle maintenance involves...
- • Making sure your tires are well inflated and have good tread depth
- • Checking that your engine fluids are full – including your windshield washer fluid
- • Following your vehicle’s recommended scheduled intervals for oil changes
- • Having your battery checked every six months (particularly in very hot or cold climates)
- • Being alert for any strange noises, leaks, or smells
- • Never ignoring a lit dashboard warning light – particularly a check engine light. For peace of mind, you may wish to invest in a device called an OBD2 Code Reader. These devices make it easy for anyone to learn why their check engine, ABS or SRS light turned on. Consider it like having your own car mechanic in your glovebox to make informed decisions about your vehicle’s health.
Going on a long road trip?
Just take it down to your trusted repair shop before your trip and have them perform a free safety check. They will confirm that all your vehicle’s vital fluids, tires and other components are road ready.
But what if your car breaks down?
Pull over to a safe location and make a note of where you are before calling for assistance. Look for any mile markers, signs, or other landmarks to provide the person you are calling for help. Unless you are in immediate danger, refrain from getting out of the car to assess your situation or even attempt to repair it, instead call a friend, family member, or your roadside company for assistance. Stay in the car with the doors locked and wait for them to arrive.
3. Always Lock Your Doors
A simple click of a button to lock your doors can save your life and your vehicle. It only takes a split second for an assailant to enter your vehicle while you’re at a stop light. Also, locking your doors has been shown to save lives during a car accident. Get into the habit...lock your doors!
4. Be Mindful of Where You Park
In 2020, the FBI estimated that 7% of all reported violent crimes
occurred in a parking garage/lot. In fact, a parking lot is where the most violent crimes against women occur. Assailants prey on women who are distracted while walking to their car; unsuspecting that someone is watching them. Be proactive!
• Begin by selecting the best parking spot – when at a multi-level, or other large parking location, it makes common sense to choose a spot that’s closest to the building entry, which tends to have the best lighting conditions and higher foot traffic. If you need to, leave early and be patient to find the right parking spot.
• Reverse into the parking space – with a bit of practice, reversing into a parking lot space provides a clear line of sight as you leave, especially if you need to get away from an unsafe situation.
• Don’t leave anything visible – close all windows, lock your doors, and keep all personal and valuable items out of sight to evade theft.
• Be very alert when approaching your vehicle – have your car keys* ready to go and avoid any distractions by leaving your cell phone in your purse/pocket. Walk with ‘purpose’ as you approach your vehicle. Once inside, immediately lock your doors, start the ignition, and drive away.
Some women find it comforting to add a pepper spray or other self-defense tool to their key ring.
5. Before Getting In, Look in the Backseat
It is common to become distracted when doing quick stops like at a gas station, to pick up takeout or another quick stop. Be cautious by always looking in the backseat before entering your vehicle – regardless of being gone for a few minutes or a few hours. Without you knowing it, an assailant could use your distraction to hide in the backseat and wait for the perfect moment.
6. Never Pull Over for Strangers
Just like mom always told us, “never talk to strangers”, the same goes when driving by yourself. As kindhearted individuals, we are compelled to help others, but it is important to think logically when faced with someone we believe to be in need. No matter how “nice” the stranger may appear, it is always best to continue driving and avoid placing yourself in a potentially dangerous situation. However, you do have the option to call the police to help the stranger.
7. Stay Alert of Your Surroundings
Without sounding obvious, being vigilant and alert of your surroundings will help you stay safe on the road. This requires defensive driving and being attentive for any potential risks. When at a stop light, be observant of who is around you or if anyone appears to be approaching your vehicle. If you think you are being followed, take an alternate route to confirm it. If you are, call 911 from your hands-free car phone or calmly head to the nearest busy shopping center or police station to ask for help.
You’ve got this! Always follow your instincts, practice the safety tips we’ve shared and enjoy the ride.