Make no mistake: crime is an ever present danger in motoring.
More and more incidents of kidnappings, murder and rape are being reported in the press; high profile cases in which the victims can no longer talk and tell their story.
After conferring with a professional involved in personal security and defense (particularly with regards to protection details) we have come up with a guide on how you can actively take part in ensuring your own security while plying the streets of Metro Manila and beyond.
Some may seem controversial and some may even be what you see in 007 movies, but these are practical measures you can instill in your daily motoring life to help you and your family stay safe, secure and alive on these increasingly meaner streets.
First, some thoughts from Jeff Cooper
Making sure you are safe and secure in any situation depends on you asking yourself the question:
How alert, how aware, and how ready am I?
In shooting circles and the firearms community where protecting oneself is the primary objective, the works and theories of Jeff Cooper is perhaps one of the most important. They're also the most applicable.
Cooper advocated in his book Principles of Personal Defense a concept he called “the combat mindset”. It's a multi-level state of mind that any person should instill in him or herself with regards to alertness. There are 4 levels, namely White, Yellow, Orange and Red.
White is, of course, the lowest of all four. If you are attacked, you are completely unaware and utterly unprepared to respond. The only way you will survive unscathed is if the assailant bungles up completely. If only we're all so lucky.
Yellow is a relaxed state of alertness, wherein you are scanning your surroundings, making sure you're not being actively followed or targeted by individuals. There's no specific threat yet, but your guard is up simply because you're paying more attention to what's going on around you.
Orange is one step higher, as it means something has particularly caught your senses to danger, and you've already prepared your mind and your body to respond.
Red is the highest state, and it means you are already in a fight or actively defending yourself. This is the moment your survival mode will kick in.
What we at Chokdee.info would advise is that we should always be in a Yellow state of mind; relaxed yet alert and aware. Remember that it's always better to be aware of what's going on rather than be caught by surprise because in the context of daily driving, surprises are generally not good.
PRACTICAL TIPS TO STAY SECURE
With that as a guiding principle as to how you can approach your own security on the road, here are some specific tips and pointers on how to go about it in our everyday driving.
Scan your surroundings before getting in your car
The first basic step is to observe whats going on around you while walking to your car at, say, a mall parking lot. This is the time when you are the most vulnerable as there are no doors, windows or locks to shield you from harm. This is the time to be the most alert.
You step out from a bar after a night of celebrating with your friends, and you've had a drink or two (hopefully not more). Alcohol drastically reduces your response to any kind of stimuli, not to mention that staying up late would make you tired and sleepy. To any smart criminal, that person is easy prey.
When you step out to go to your car (especially at night and from a bar) scan your surroundings first. Look around and pay special attention to what's behind you; watch your six, so to speak.
If you feel like you're being followed, head for a more secure, well lit area like another restaurant or convenience store. Never let yourself be isolated or be trapped into a corner.
Lock the doors right away
When you do get to your car, the moment you get inside, lock your doors immediately... even before you switch on the engine.
The rationale is simple: when you're sitting down in the driver's seat and with the steering wheel right in front of you, it's hard for you to defend yourself if someone you don't know opens any door and attack you for whatever reason. Prevent that by immediately activating your door locks when you get in.
Also, avoid driving with the windows down, especially in traffic.
Do not stop or step down from your car
In any situation where survival is the objective, movement (particularly speed) equals life. The ability to flee a potentially dangerous situation is far more important and a far better alternative than staying still and trying to resist.
This is why the typical modus operandi (M.O.) of criminals involves getting a target victim/car to stop by instigating a minor collision, as the typical response of us city dwellers means they will hop down and assess the damage rather than worry about our own security and safety. Some criminals are even creative enough to attach a cable with cans on it under your car, hoping you would stop, go down and check what's wrong. Some even throw rocks from afar, a situation I found myself in before.
Keep moving, keep mobile and stay in your vehicle if you suspect something is up. Keep your doors locked, scan your environment and pay particular attention to your mirrors. If you think you're being targeted, flee.
If you were bumped in a suspicious place and at an ungodly hour, go somewhere safer right away like a police station rather than get down and assess the damage. I would take a hit-and-run violation over getting victimized on the road any day.
Avoid places you can get trapped in, identify safe locations
The ability to evade danger can be limited if you find yourself in the wrong parts of town. You do not want to get stuck in such places in that kind of situation; don't get cornered, so to speak.
Typically you should avoid tight alleyways and dark streets. You want to be on the main roads where ever you may be as they are usually the best lit and has more peace officers patrolling them; good deterrents against anyone who wishes to take your car or worse, do you harm.
Also, you should know beforehand where the possible safe locations are. Mark places in your memory like police stations, fire stations, city halls, barangay halls, hospitals, well-lit gas stations, security outposts and even malls, anywhere that there's light and people.
One tip: if you really think you're being followed, don't head home right away because in doing so, you might as well hand them your address.
Drawing any weapon is the absolute last resort
Let me make this clear: pulling out any kind of weapon or defensive device you have in the car with you is absolutely the last resort.
I say that because it would mean that the situation has been allowed to reach the Red stage of Cooper's combat mindset. These practical tips -if applied to everyday driving- are meant to prevent that from happening through alertness and simple evasive tactics, meaning you shouldn't have to draw a gun to protect yourself.
Any gun regardless of caliber, high-voltage stun gun, pepper spray, baton, knife, sword, baseball bat, fists, knees, elbows, kicks or harsh words are last lines of personal defense because really, at the end of the day, the best protection we all have is the mind.
Stay safe out there.