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Safety tips for women drivers

When you're a woman driving alone, car crashes are far from the only risk you face. Carjacking, abduction and falling prey to a police impersonator all pose additional hazards for women, who are more likely to be targeted by sexual predators.

 

While it's important not to be overly fearful, it's smart to be on the lookout for trouble and prepared if you're confronted. Here are 10 ways to stay safe when travelling solo.

  1. Be careful where you park. Find a well-lit parking spot, whether it's indoors or out. Avoid spots where few other vehicles are parked. Steer clear of vans, especially commercial models that lack glass side panels, where wrongdoers can hide. Lock your car, and memorise or jot down its location. In a parking garage consider letting the attendant know where you're parked as you return to your car: If you don't come through the pay window shortly, he'll know something's wrong.
  2. Have your keys handy. Fumbling for keys in a handbag can give a criminal the extra few seconds he needs to pull off a mugging, abduction or carjacking. If your key fob can be programmed to open only the driver-side door, do it. Consider attaching a canister of pepper spray to your keychain. Make sure the car is locked once you are in.
  3. Pay attention to vehicles near yours. As you head back to your vehicle, is someone sitting in another vehicle's passenger side, next to where you'll be getting in? Is the vehicle pulling out, or just idling? If it's the latter, back off. This could be trouble.
  4. Avoid playing Good Samaritan. This is especially true if you're waved down by a lone man in a remote location whose car seems to have broken down. Use your cell phone to call his location in to the metro police. They can help him out.
  5. Know where you're going at all times. Have directions handy whenever you're going somewhere new. Consider keeping a GPS device in your car if it doesn't have a navigation system. You can find portable navigation systems for less than R3000, or consider a C-Track that are mounted on sports watches. The device will allow you to be tracked and to call in your precise location if you become lost or just aren't good at reading maps.
  6. Keep your vehicle well serviced. A poorly maintained engine can let you down at exactly the wrong time — or place. The same goes for batteries that haven't been charged recently or tested in cold weather. Tyres that are long in the tooth and short in the tread can go flat just when they're needed most. Keeping up on your maintenance can go a long way toward avoiding a bad situation.
  7. Have a plan when trouble arises. If confronted by a potential abductor or carjacker while you're in or around your car, drop your packages and run, while making lots of noise. Experts say most criminals will quit right there. What you want to avoid at all costs is going with them to another location, even if they say you won't be hurt. Once you no longer control the situation, you have few options. If you're being followed by another car, head to a police station. If you are driving and discover someone hiding in your backseat, slam on your brakes to throw them off balance, put the car in park and run.

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