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Situational awareness around your vehicle is critical to whether you or your loved ones become victims of a violent crime. And vehicle safety begins with the selection of a parking space. By simply parking in a location that is safe to access, the vast majority of violent encounters can be avoided. A secure, locked, attached garage is ideal. However, many families do not enjoy this creature comfort, and even those that do must routinely drive to and park in locations away from home. Choosing a well-lit parking space as close as possible to your destination is essential. No matter how much of a rush you find yourself in, refuse to park in back alleys or side streets that are blocks away from your destination. If you live in an apartment or must use corporate parking, you may be forced to deal with factors outside of your control in terms of security and lighting. In such cases, be even more aware of your surroundings, and take every precaution possible.

As for those traveling with families, if you find yourself on a family outing and it is impossible to park close to the venue, have a family member who is appropriately prepared for self-defense situations be the driver, and drop the rest of the family off right at the entrance. This same courtesy and common sense should be employed when leaving: Have the best-equipped family member go to the vehicle and come back to pick up the others. Door-to-door service is a great way to avoid falling prey to a predatory criminal.

About The Car
Before opening up your vehicle, take a moment to really inspect it. Are there any windows broken? Is a door, trunk or sunroof ajar? First thing in the morning, or last thing at night, it can be easy to miss obvious warning signs such as these. So make sure everything looks right before climbing in. Take special care to scan your surroundings (look and listen) when approaching your vehicle and prior to getting out. You are most vulnerable to an assault or confrontation when entering or exiting your vehicle.

Also, if you carry concealed, you most likely understand the concealed-carry mindset and lifestyle. You don’t need to be told to make sure that your handgun is loaded to capacity and that you have access to adequate firepower for a lethal-force encounter, which may include multiple assailants. Yet it’s easy to overlook your gasoline situation when heading out.

Keeping your gas tank full and topping up as needed when it is absolutely safe (during broad-daylight hours in high-profile locations, such as at a convenience stop near a police station) may save your life. Hitting the road with a low fuel level, particularly at night, can land you in hot water. Troublemakers routinely hang around gas stations at night, looking for their next easy target. Having a sufficiently full tank means you won’t find yourself having to stop for gas at an undesirable location, at an undesirable time. So gas ’em up, both your guns and your vehicle.

Get The Moves
While your automobile wheels are rolling, you’re much less likely to be accosted by a hostile individual or group. It’s at the stops and starts where you’re at the greatest risk. When approaching any stop, whether a red light, stop sign or gas station, scan your surroundings. Don’t just check to see who’s in the car behind and in front of you, but be observant of everything 360 degrees around you. If you see something you don’t like, try to avoid stopping. If you can verify a critical threat to your life such as an approaching carjacker, you may have to make the tough call and drive out of the situation, even if it means potential collisions with other vehicles or property.

If a vehicular maneuver can save your life without jeopardizing the safety of innocent people, you may need to do it. At all costs, try to avoid driving out into oncoming or side-approaching traffic, which could otherwise result in a major accident. That said, if you are being shot at, you may have to engage in high-risk maneuvering as a last resort. If you’d like to be better prepared for these kinds of scenarios, consider undergoing some vehicular combat training, such as the Tactical Driving course from CRI Israeli Counter Terrorism Training.

Vehicle Carry
If you carry a concealed handgun for self-defense, you may employ a carry method that provides easy access to your firearm while standing, but one that may make the gun much harder to reach while you’re buckled into your car seat. Depending on your state and local laws, you may be able to make use of holsters that are mounted to the inside of your vehicle, near your legs. These options allow your gun to remain safe and out of sight while being lightning fast to grip and present.

Since the gun must stay in the mounted holster in a fast-moving vehicle, or even in the case of a collision, holsters with added security, like the triggerguard locks found on BlackHawk SERPA Level II security holsters, are ideal. These give you a worry-free mounting option while offering great protection for your firearm and, with just a little training, a fast draw.

Once you’ve entered your vehicle, started the engine and locked your doors, you can simply transition your handgun from your normal concealed-carry location to the vehicular mount. If this option is not available to you, you may want to reconsider your carry method so you can draw expediently while buckled up.

The Boy Scout motto, “Be prepared,” is just as true for staying safe in and around your vehicle. So another thing you should carry in your vehicle is a properly programmed cellphone so you are prepared to communicate with the police from your vehicle in an emergency.

With a hands-free phone kit, you will be able to (theoretically speaking) call 9-1-1 while you’re driving and evading an attack, or even while presenting your firearm to deter a threat. Programming 9-1-1 into your vehicle’s communication system so it can be voice dialed is an excellent idea. If you do not have a hands-free kit or headset, a speaker-phone option can be employed. In this case, try to set a press-and-hold speed-dial to avoid having to press more than one button to call 9-1-1.

Fight With C.A.R.
Several years ago, there was a buzz about a 3-gun combat shooting system invented by Paul Castle and released through his training school, Sabre Tactical. The Center Axis Relock (C.A.R.) method of gunfighting drew plenty of fire from the armed services community, but the system has since been incorporated by several police department and military units worldwide.

The C.A.R. system really shines in immediate vehicle-oriented combat. The C.A.R. “high” provides an efficient way to engage threats approaching the driver’s side front window, and the “extended position” is an excellent way to cover threats from all directions while seated. In these scenarios, extra care must be taken to not sweep other passengers inside your vehicle. With the extended position and with the C.A.R. key grip, the gun clears the door quickly and easily, and the sights are right in your field of view. This method allows you to cover a threat that’s approaching from behind your left shoulder (the rear driver’s side of the vehicle) without your having to turn around.

Out Of Harm’s Way
Even though, for many of us, missions can be routine—dropping the kids off at soccer practice, picking up the groceries or catching a movie—we still deal with risk. Getting everyone home safe and sound has to be our focus each time we get behind the wheel. The more we plan and understand the high-risk points of our journey, the better.

Use preparedness and common sense to your advantage by, for example, starting with mapping out a driving route to avoid undesirable parts of town, or carrying proper denominations of hard currency for parking meters to avoid having to stop at a bank machine or make unnecessary trips back to your vehicle.

Firearms training will greatly improve the odds of staying safe, but it is not enough. Becoming a harder target involves incorporating full-spectrum awareness. With these basic suggestions as a building block, you can begin managing the risks of a violent encounter in or around your vehicle today.

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