Heels in Wheels: Thinking About Safety

Everybody knows of someone who has either been a victim of snatch thefts or been accosted in a car park, but it doesn’t mean you have to be the next one.

The majority of victims have unfortunately been women as they’re viewed as the weaker sex, so it’s vital to take some precautionary measures to reduce the risk of being targeted. Ultimately, it’s impossible to prevent a determined attacker or thief but by making it difficult, you could deter them from looking at you as a possible score.

The first step starts with parking and where you park your car. After numerous news stories detailing attacks in shopping mall car parks, property owners have taken proactive steps by improving lighting, installing emergency buttons, increasing the number of CCTV cameras and hiring more security guards.

He's a safety instructor but most of us have visions of someone like this waiting in a dark corner

These are all worthy measures and they should be lauded taking them but there are also steps we can take to further minimise risk. For instance, it’s better to park your car in a well-lit area with a lot of pedestrian traffic. Look for spots close to an elevator or escalator, exit stairs or even a car wash. If you’re catching a late night movie and driving alone, get the security guard to accompany you to your car or try and park it in an upper level as opposed to the depths of the bottom floor in a basement car park.

Cars like the new Ford Escape have hands free boot opening that only require a gentle kick of bumper

The same rules apply when you do your weekly grocery shopping though this time, you’ll probably have your hands full too. Try and use the trolley to bring your load to your car as opposed to carrying it as this leaves your hands free from obstruction. Load the car quickly and make sure you lock it before you return the trolley.

In both cases, the most important factor is to be aware of your surroundings. Nobody wants to be paranoid but it makes sense to at least take a quick look at the area near your car as you approach it and if anything appears amiss there is nothing wrong with walking back to where you came from and either wait for when there are more people around you or ask a security guard for help.

Most of the time, car thefts are crimes of opportunity. When filling up your car for instance, try and pay at the pump instead of the counter. If you do have to pay inside, then lock your car before walking away and even after you’ve done that take a look inside your car before getting back in. It’s also best to try and fill your car up at a pump under a well-lit area instead of one parked out back, purely for the reason of being seen and being able to see people around you.

Try and pay at the pumps when filling up rather than paying at the counter

Aside from personal attacks the theft of items like handbags in cars, especially by motorcyclists, is more prevalent these days. Adopt an ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ attitude with your belongings because if a thief can’t see them the chances of a break-in are reduced. Therefore, put your laptop/office bag in the boot when you’re driving and if you can, place your handbag under the front passenger seat. Items like small change and your Smart Tag can be kept in the glove box after you’ve parked the car and don’t forget to do the same with your portable GPS unit if you have one.

If you’re unlucky enough to be the victim of an attack though, your best bet of help is to try and draw as much attention as possible. Screaming and making as much noise as possible helps so get a personal alarm that you carry on your key-fob. Pepper spray is useful in close quarters but the best investment you can make is to attend one of the many self-defence and safety courses car industry players are organising these days. The price is usually subsidised and it only takes the better part of an afternoon to complete.

Companies involved in the car industry are playing an active role in educating women about personal safety

At the end of the day, it’s impossible to be 100 per cent safe in any situation regardless of the precautions you take. But use the tips above and a large dose of sensibility and you should be able to reduce the risk levels involved.

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