It’s a troubling thing to write about – this notion that women (or anyone, really) should take additional precautions on the road. However, it’s the smart tips that have kept me safe over the years – even from a close encounter hi-jacking. Let’s get into staying safe on the road in the first submission from new contributor Nikky K.
I must just preface with the fact that these tips may not work for everyone. However, they’re my personal ‘go-to’s that help me to not become a victim.
So, let’s get into it.
Open your windows a smidge
Allegedly everyone knows this, but I didn’t until a few years ago to my wise mechanic’s great surprise. Uncle Henry – as I jokingly call him – always gives me my car back with the windows slightly rolled down. I didn’t know why until, after years of him caring for my then custard-yellow beetle, I asked. “For your safety,” he answered. Puzzled, of course, I asked him to explain.
When your car window is closed into the top of the door frame, the window is held in place to stop wind and water from entering the interior.
Sadly, this framing of the glass pane makes it stiffer and allows it to give way easier if smashed. Should you have shatter-proof glass the science is a bit different (I’ll spare you the thesis-level explanation), but for the average driver opening your window a little allows the pane to flex and stops it from smashing on first impact.
Don’t hurry to a red light…
You’d expect this to be a general rule of thumb but hurrying to a red light to only sit and idle while you wait for it to change is not very strategic – especially at night. If you’re approaching from a distance, slow down. Cruise up to the light and keep moving. The momentum drastically cuts down chances of interference by would-be criminals on foot. Additionally, it allows you to get away if need be.
…and don’t speed through the orange one.
It seems to be basic road knowledge, but it has become more obvious over the years that orange is often interpreted as “quickly now”. This isn’t the case. It’s the signal to indicate the light is about to change, and unless you’re not in the intersection, you should now stop.
Why is it important to hail to the orange light? Because sometimes other drivers anticipate the orange light for side traffic as an indication they can prepare to drive off. Additionally, it is frankly impossible to predict who will skip the light. And let’s not forget the patient people waiting on right turns, who now need to evacuate the intersection to allow free passing space for the other traffic.
So, unless you are certain nobody is barreling down the road about to rear-end you, STOP.
Put your stuff away
I still hear of women who had their windows smashed and handbags, bags and cellphones stolen from the seat or footwell beside them. And it still surprises me, because it was one of those fundamental rules of driving that were instilled onto me by women who drove from a very young age.
The best places to stow bags include your boot, under the passenger seat or in the rear passenger footwell. If you have a jacket to drape over the item, it works well. Remember: out of sight, out of mind – a key consideration to staying safe on the road.
This applies to your cellphone as well. While it is legitimately illegal to use your cellphone (without a hands-free kit) while driving, it adds a layer of decreased awareness of your surroundings. Yes, when you’re reading, speaking, or browsing on your phone you don’t see what’s happening around you.
If you’re focusing on that WhatsApp meme at the red light, you won’t see the person approaching your window. As seemingly intuitive as this, allowing the distraction of a cellphone is something many drivers are still guilty of. The presence of a phone also adds to the presence of incentives. And yes, I know nobody is asking to be robbed, but we need to keep ourselves safe first.
Keep your license handy
Now, with all the goodies stowed away – what happens if you are pulled over by a traffic officer? Stashing your license in your glovebox or your sun visor makes it available and accessible without having to dig your wallet out of its hiding spot.
However, it is ill-advised to leave your license in your car permanently. Make it a habit to put it back in your bag as you leave.
And that’s a wrap to staying safe on the road
In summary, while we can’t stop others from attempting to commit a crime, we can do our best to keep ourselves safe.
Stay tuned for regular tips, snippets and feminist takes on the world of driving.