A friend had an unnerving experience the other day, finding herself being followed by a man in a pick-up truck who appeared to be videoing her with his mobile phone. No matter what she did, every time she looked in her mirror he was sitting inches away from her rear bumper, leaning forward with his phone balanced on the steering wheel.
He eventually turned off down a small lane but should you find yourself in a similar position, here’s what you should do.
The first point is to stay calm. You’re in your car, and they are in theirs, and as long as it stays that way you are safe, even if you do feel scared and uncomfortable.
So, if your doors aren’t already locked, now would be a great time to activate the central locking button before continuing to drive carefully; it is very easy to focus all your attention in the rear-view mirror, leaving yourself dangerously distracted and neglecting what’s happening on the road in front of you.
Don't become a victim of a crash for cash scam
Don’t speed up
You probably aren’t pursuit trained by the police, so there is nothing to be gained by trying to out-run a stalker.
The best thing to do is to concentrate on the road in front of you, and tell yourself that the car behind might not be following you after all and it might just be a coincidence (which is the most likely situation, and the safest way for you to act).
Ignore flashing headlights
If the other driver starts to flash their headlights they might just be warning you of a problem that you aren’t aware of.
Or they might be trying to lull you into pulling over.
The best bet is to carry on and to pull over only when you reach a place of safety.
Seek a place of safety
If you are convinced that you are being followed then you should make your way to a place of safety.
The ideal is a police station, but as many of them are now closed or unmanned a petrol station forecourt is probably your best bet given that they are all staffed and the majority have CCTV running constantly.
Pull onto the forecourt, stay sitting in your car with the doors locked, and sound your horn until you’ve got everyone’s attention.
Keep sounding your horn until someone comes over to see what all the fuss is about. You can then crack open your window a little way to tell them your concerns.
Read our tips for dealing with aggressive drivers
If you’ve been followed in
If the driver has followed you onto the petrol station forecourt then you should call the police for help. Don’t hesitate: 999 is the number to call whenever you think that your personal safety is at risk.
Consider a dashcam
You can buy a dashcam that has two lenses, one to film in front of the car and one to film behind it.
These can be invaluable as trying to juggle the steering wheel and simultaneously write down the car’s number plate is too dangerous to consider, but a video of the incident will be invaluable to the police.
Take a mental note
Even without the benefit of a dashcam, you can still make a mental note of the stalker’s appearance, as well as that of the vehicle.
Are they old or young? Male or female? Bearded or clean-shaven? You’d be amazed at how many witnesses can’t recall even these basics because their mind is working overtime, fuelled by a mind-numbing combination of fear and adrenaline.
By running through a mental checklist you will notice and remember far more than you otherwise would.
When it is safe to do so, pull over and make copious notes; the police refer to these as ‘contemporaneous notes’ and they are good evidence in the event that they find and prosecute your stalker.
Of course, if you’ve got a passenger in the car with you then the job of taking notes is made even easier.
Even if the incident ends, as my friend's did, with the stalker peeling off and driving away, you should report the incident to the police anyway; just because you’ve been sensible and scared him off doesn’t mean that he won’t try it again with someone else…