A guide to personal safety for motorists

Carlton Boyce / 21 January 2016

Keep yourself safe when driving with these simple tips.

We’ve covered road rage and roadside scams in previous articles, but what can you do to keep yourself safe when you are driving your car?

Keep your doors locked

Keeping your doors locked at all times will prevent anyone opening one to snatch a bag or worse.

Almost all modern cars will lock them automatically when you reach a certain speed, but you should try and get into the habit of locking them as soon as you get in. This will stop the opportunist who wants to open a door before you’ve had a chance to trigger the central locking by driving off.

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Only open your windows a little bit

If you do need to open a window to talk to someone, then only open it an inch or so. This is wide enough for you to be able to hold a conversation but won’t let them reach into the car to grab your valuables or unlock the door.

Keep valuables out of sight

If you lock your valuables and bags in the boot, you’ll be removing an incentive for a thief to target you.

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Never leave your keys in the car

If you get out of the car, to fill it with fuel or scrape ice, for example, never leave your keys in the car, not even briefly. 

A thief only needs a few seconds to jump in and drive away and some won’t be deterred by the presence of passengers or children in the car…

Stopping at junctions

When you stop behind another car at a junction, try a leave a gap between you. If you can see the ground behind their rear tyres, you’re leaving enough space for you to be able to manoeuvre round them if there is a problem.

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A well-serviced car is a safe car because it is much less likely to break down, leaving you stranded and vulnerable.

However, if you do break down, stay inside your car with the doors locked while you wait for help. 

The only exception is if you break down on a motorway, when you must leave the car and wait on the embankment. Even then, you can leave the front passenger door open, giving you a place of refuge to retreat to should something happen to make you feel vulnerable.

Read our tips on what to do if you breakdown.

Car parks

If you’re going to be parked up for a few hours try to imagine what the car park or street will look like in the dark: will it be well-lit? 

Is there a security guard or parking attendant on site or do they knock off at five o’clock, leaving you alone?

Better still, use Park Mark to identify the nearest safe car park and use that instead of an unknown one.

You should also reverse into the parking space and check the rear seats and footwell for anyone hiding there before you get into the vehicle.

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Have a plan

Have a plan in mind in case a problem develops. Are you well trained enough to be able to fight back? Or is discretion the better part of valour and would it be better to make your escape before reporting the matter to the police?

Make your escape – slowly!

If you do need to drive away to escape from someone who is threatening you, remember that you only need to do so relatively slowly; if he is on foot then the maximum speed he can run after you is going to be about 10mph – and your average criminal isn’t renowned for the intensity of their training regime, so he is unlikely to be able to keep this up for long!

So reverse or drive away slowly; panicking and having an accident isn’t going to improve your situation, is it?

Read our tips for dealing with aggressive drivers.

Dash cams

Thieves and criminals like anonymity and hate being filmed. Fitting a dash cam might deter them from targeting you and will certainly give the police extra evidence in the event that there is a problem.

Finally, please don’t worry unnecessarily. By taking these simple steps you will have reduced your chances of becoming a victim of crime to almost zero. 

If you do want to find out more then the Suzy Lamplugh Trust has a wealth of advice on its website as well as an online shop selling security essentials.

For more useful tips and information, browse our motoring articles.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.