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During my tenure as United Nations Security Chief, and while running my executive protection firm, I have witnessed every conceivable driving mishap by executives and diplomats. As a new season approaches and business travel continues to flourish, I would like to share the top ten mistakes business executives make while driving, so that you can provide better security advice.
Effective security precautions for driving require a conscious awareness of one’s environment, as well as the need to exercise advance planning, prudence, judgment and common sense. This is especially true where the traveler must acclimate to different cultures, customs and laws. People driving abroad on business, or in unfamiliar routes here in the United States, should chart their travel ahead of time to ensure that they drive on main roadways and avoid poorly lit streets where they may be vulnerable.
There are ten common mistakes that many executives make while on these driving trips. Share this with the boss.
BECOMING CARJACKER BAITMany heckling or carjacking situations occur because there is no way for a driver to maneuver the vehicle away from the perpetrator. Carjacking situations can be avoided by maintaining your car’s distance from other vehicles. Do not stop directly behind the vehicle in front of you; instead, leave room or an “out” to get away from a potentially hazardous situation, even if this means driving on the sidewalk or over the curb. With carjacking, the car in front often stops and the second car blocks you from the rear. You want to be able to go around the car in front if the driver stops short, and giving yourself the option of an escape will save you from a bad situation.
DRIVING TO RURAL OUTPOSTSPreparation is key while driving in unfamiliar territory. Be sure to maintain a steady course on highly populated major roadways. Avoid driving on poorly lit streets, particularly when you are out of your normal element. Unsteady, unsure driving could attract predators; educate yourself about the region you are to visit before you arrive, and certainly before driving. Try to find out what areas are unsafe or unsavory at night.
STOPPING AT EVERY RED LIGHTWhile it is certainly not advisable to run a red light, it’s best to time your arrival at each intersection to meet a green light. Every moment that your car idles at a red light provides a moment of opportunity for predators to ambush you. Try rolling to a stoplight to ensure the least amount of time spent stopped at a red light.
FAILING TO KEEP VEHICLE MECHANICALLY FIT AND NOT BEING “TANKED UP”If you are driving your own personal vehicle while on business, it is imperative that the vehicle be professionally maintained. If renting a car while on business, opt for the newest models available. Also make sure your car is filled to the brim with a full tank of gas. Do not wait until your car is below a half a tank, or even worse, on E, before refueling. You never know where the next gas station may be.
DRIVING A ROLLS ROYCE WHEN A HONDA WILL DOWhile it is a great ego boost to drive a high status car, it is also a red alert to criminals. Avoid being flashy when renting, leasing or buying automobiles for business travel, and drive reliable, high-quality automobiles that won’t attract unwanted attention.
Failing to Keep Safety Equipment OnboardWhile driving, you should maintain a safe driving arsenal including a flashlight, inflated spare tire, jumper cables, first aid kit, maps, and if possible, invest in a Global Positioning System (GPS). Travel with a mobile telephone and spend the extra money on a car charger for the telephone. This kit can help you quickly escape a potentially bad situation and get back on the road.
PARKING IN DARK AREASA common mistake is to park a vehicle in the daytime without thinking whether your parking area will be remote and in an unlit area come evening. Be sure to park where there are attendants nearby, and find out if you’re parking where an attendant is on duty 24 hours a day. Also try to park under a light pole to ensure a well-lit parking area.
FAILING TO LOOK FOR PERPETRATORSPredators like to hide in the back seat or any other roomy area in a vehicle that may be undetected. It has recently been discovered that some perpetrators are hiding under the car as well. Be sure to lock your car before leaving it. When walking back to the car, look under it, and then once at the vehicle, check the backseat. Never leave enticing items visible in your car, such as a pocketbook or backpack on the seat. Even if windows are closed, it’s a common practice for thieves to smash the window, reach into the vehicle and steal the purse or other personal belongings.
DRIVING SOLO SANS STRANGERSSometimes it is unavoidable to drive solo, but there is always safety in numbers. Whenever possible, drive with a fellow passenger or two. However, that does not mean picking up hitchhikers. Never stop your vehicle to offer assistance to a hitchhiker, or provide a lift. Make a mobile call to help them if needed, but never provide ground transport to a stranger. Unfortunately, you never know what is on a person’s agenda.
FAILING TO SEND SOSIf you’re being forced off the road, be sure to engage in a defensive driving ‘SOS’ – honk the horn, flash the lights, and find a well lit, populated place to pull into. Find an open store well lit if coming home at night. Do not try to be smart and throw the keys away so a carjacker can’t take the car. Your life is worth more than your car. If you are facing a carjacker, don’t make any quick moves. Be sure to tell the carjacker you are removing your seat belt, for example, as he may think you are reaching for a gun. Get out of the car quickly, as the majority of injuries occur when someone is pulled from the car and dragged down the road because their seat belt is still engaged or their arm is caught.
BE SAFE, BE ALERTDefensive driving demands being an educated driver. Keep your doors locked while driving, and watch the rear view mirror to gauge suspicious surveillance. Carry a telephone number to a taxi service that serves the area and know their hours of operation. Know in advance the difference between an ‘authorized’ police checkpoint and a ‘random unauthorized’ checkpoint before setting out on a route. Personal security is a sacred responsibility for all American business travelers and vital for promoting American economic and commercial interests worldwide.
SideBar: Ten Things You Can Do To Protect Yourself While Driving:1. Maintain a safe distance from other cars by allowing yourself an ‘out’.
2. Drive on commonly used highways and familiar routes.
3. Roll to a red light to avoid a complete stop.
4. Keep vehicle fit through preventive maintenance and keep gas tank filled.
5. Drive a less ‘flashy’ car to avoid becoming a target.
6. Store safety equipment in the car.
7. Park in well-lit, public areas whenever possible.
8. Look under the car when walking to it/in the backseat before entering vehicle.
9. Drive with someone whenever possible, and avoid giving strangers a ride.
10. Make others aware of a volatile situation by flashing your lights and honking your horn.