20th May 2014

Blog: Personal Safety Tips for Drivers

Looking after Number One

Know how the locking system on your car works – Do you have to activate the Central Locking or can you set it to lock once the car is rolling? If unsure, contact your Service Dealer or SIMI Approved Dealer.

Keep all items of temptation out of view of those outside your car. Lap-tops/iPads/MP3’s/Mobile Phones/ Sat Nav’s etc., may be the lure for those looking for an easy smash & grab.

Never have your House Keys on the same ring as your Car Keys.

Never put the registration number of your car on its key ring.

Don’t keep your Driving Licence, Insurance Documentation, or Vehicle Registration Documents in your car.

Men –Do not hang your Jacket on a hanger behind you, as it invariably contains your wallet, with Driving Licence, Bank & Credit Cards etc., and is easily accessible to the clever thief.

Never leave children alone in the car with the engine running.

If alone, do not leave the engine running outside your home, at fuel stations, or at schools etc.

If you are a key holder, carry cash or by appearance give the impression that you do, consider laminating the side and rear windows of your car. Clear laminate can be affixed to the front driver and passenger windows, while dark tint, (Privacy Glass), can be applied to the windows to the rear of the B-Pillars. This laminate will prevent the window being smashed in, goods to be taken or access to open a door and will provide you with time to get away, or apply the horn constantly to warn them off and attract attention.

Plan your journey. If you are going through an area unknown to you, your dalliance can mark you out as vulnerable – pre-plan and be assertive when driving. Try not to be continually slowing at route signs or street names, as this could mark you out.

Take note of the traffic around you. Note any suspicious movement of persons and vehicles, who may be ‘checking out’ potential targets. If you think you are being followed drive to the nearest Garda/Police Station or place of high public activity, Hotel/ Shopping Centre. Where there is a roundabout, circle it twice/three times to check if you are being followed. Similarly take slip off Motorway and go directly back onto the carriageway on the merging lane. Drive normally – do not speed up!!

Always hold a good Following Position when travelling in flow traffic. This will give you a good view of the road ahead of traffic in front of you and allow you plan your own journey. Never got too close to a car in front. As well as placing you in the prime spot to shunt the driver in front if they reflex brake, you could be under surveillance by them for access to your car or goods.

In urban areas, drive in Lane 2 if it exists, which puts you away from the footpath and the prying eyes of those targeting for their ‘friends’ further up the roadway.

Know and keep a good Stopped Position – remember TOT – Tyres On Tarmac – where you line up the bonnet line of your car with the road contact patch of the rear tyres of the car in front. This will give you a safe space of 2/3 metres, which will provide you with a good view of the road ahead, prevent the exhaust fumes of cars in front from entering your car and importantly, will provide you with an escape route around the car in front.

Remember – those looking to thieve from your car can be mobile on pedal cycle/car/van or motorcycle or indeed can be acting as a ‘Spotter’ at traffic lights or areas where traffic congests.

When parking, particularly in the hours of darkness, always seek a well-lit area. Many of these areas are covered by CCTV and provide an extra level of security.

Don’t alienate yourself by parking covertly between high-sided vehicles, badly lit areas or where there are high walls/hedges or shaded by trees.

Always park your car in the direction you wish to leave – reverse rear to the footpath. Park in a good-lighted area, beside other cars, where all-round visibility is good. Practice reversing your car until you can comfortable add it to your skill set.

When returning to your car, scan the car park for any suspicious activity by lone pedestrians or by those sitting in cars/vans. Remember not all who appear to be handing out flyers or leaflets may be bona fide.

Don’t be on your phone as you walk to the car. Your concentration will be on the call and not on your possible vulnerability – created primarily by you being on the phone!!

If you are a woman returning to your car and are suspicious or unsure, ask one of the security staff to accompany you back to your car.

Follow your instincts and return to a busy area if suspicious of someone loitering. Once again ask to be accompanied to your car by security or remain inside until you are reassured all is ok for you to return to your car.

Check your car as you approach. Always set the interior lighting to activate on your key fob.

Click the fob when you are about 20 paces from entering it. Once the interior lights assure you that all is normal within, place all packages in the car/boot as efficiently as practical. Spend as little time as possible with your back turned.

Once in the car, fire up the engine and drive away immediately. Do not sit there warming up the engine.

Where children are a constant, develop safe practices regarding their entry and exit from the car. No passenger should exit the car without the driver giving the all clear. This is safe practice in any environment, particularly urban.

Once again, ensure that the doors are locked once on the move and that all windows are rolled up fully.

Beware of the following tactics that may be used to distract and divert your attention:

Pedestrian/cyclist falling to the front of your car – This could be a ploy to get you to stop and allows another person out of your view to you're your doors and access your car.

Stop and be ready to drive around the pedestrian. Blow your horn, keeping your hand on it constantly if you suspect anything developing.

Rear end shunt – A small bump by a following car could be pure inattention or a reason to get you to stop and confront the offending driver.

Be suspicious and stay in your car, doors again locked. Get ready to drive away or again activate the horn warning if you think things are more devious than just human error.

Once on the move, wave to the car involved to follow you. Drive to the nearest Garda/Police Station or a busy Petrol Station to sort things out.

If you have to get out of the car, take the keys with you. Do not react by jumping out of your car and leave the keys in the ignition.

Should you be confronted by someone armed, do not get into any verbal or physical resistance with him or her. Do not chase after them – they may have others waiting in their defence.

Should you be in a kidnap situation, try to exit the car at the first opportunity – NOT while it is moving.

If at all possible, never agree to be kidnapped. Throw your keys away, shout as loud as you can and if feasible, run away.

If possible hit the emergency phone number 112 on your phone and leave it live, so that the Emergency Service operator can be made aware of your situation. Keep shouting the location and what is happening to you.


By Tony Toner, BeepBeep.ie Motoring Correspondent.

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