Getting a driver’s license is a big deal for every teenager. It represents freedom, the chance to go new places, and a great deal of responsibility. The vehicle you drive- the family car, a motorcycle, even your own car – may seem like an oasis, safe from the hassles of everyday life. But you are still vulnerable to crime.
Here are a few things to keep in mind to help keep you crime free on the road.
- Don’t drink or do other drugs and drive. And don’t ride with drivers who are under the influence.
- Keep your car in good working condition and the gas tank full. If your car does break down, pull over and stay inside it with the doors locked and the windows rolled up. Wait for the police to arrive or ask a passing motorist to call the police for you.
- Always lock a parked car, and look under and inside the entire car to see if someone has gotten into your car before you get back in.
- Avoid parking in isolated areas. If you’re uncomfortable about where your car is parked, ask a security guard or store staff to watch you or escort you to your car.
- Drive to the nearest gas station, open business, or busy, well-lighted area to get help if you think you are being followed. Don’t head home.
- Use your cellular phone, if you have one, to call the police if you are being followed. Otherwise, stay off cellular phones while you are driving.
- Don’t pick up hitchhikers. Don’t hitchhike.
Taking Your Anger on the Road
Road rage – uncontrolled anger or frustration because of traffic conditions or other drivers – is becoming a serious problem throughout the country. A majority of drivers get angry when someone cuts them off or tailgates them. Here are some tips on avoiding road rage:
- Keep calm when you’re driving. Instead of retaliating, count to 10 and take a few deep breaths.
- Back off when someone cuts you off. If someone tailgates you, change lanes. Don’t get pulled into a game of chicken on the road. Your life and the lives of others are at stake.
- Keep a reasonable distance between you and the car in front of you, and make sure that you aren’t cutting someone off when you change lanes. Drive in the passing lane only when you are passing another car, and be sure to use your signals.
- Use your horn sparingly – as a warning, not an outburst.
- Don’t make obscene gestures to other drivers, no matter how mad they make you - even if they make obscene gestures at you.
- Don’t fight over parking spots.
- Stay out or move out of the way of other angry drivers.
Don’t Make it Easy for a Thief to Steal Your Wheels.
You don’t want to lose your newfound freedom by losing your car.
The Basic Prevention Policy:
- Never leave your car running or the keys in the ignition when you’re away from it, even for “just a minute.”
- Always roll up the windows and lock the car, even when it is in front of your home.
- Never leave valuables in plain view, even if your car is locked. Put them in the trunk or at least out of sight. Buy auto stereo equipment that can be removed and locked in the trunk.
- Park in busy, well-lighted areas.
- Carry the registration and insurance card with you. Don’t leave personal IDs or credit cards in your vehicle.
- Leave only the ignition key with the attendant when you pay to park in a lot or garage. Do the same when you take the car for repairs.
- Report your stolen car to the police immediately.
A Little Extra Protection
- Etch the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) – found on a metal plate behind the front windshield – on the windows, doors, fenders, and trunk lid. This helps discourage professional thieves who have to either remove or replace etched parts before selling the car. Copy the VIN and your license plate tag number on a card and keep it in a safe place – the police will need this information if your car is stolen.
- Investigate security systems if you live in a high-theft area or drive an automobile that’s attractive to thieves. You may get a discount on your auto insurance.
What About Carjacking?
Carjacking – stealing a car by force – has captured headlines in the last few years. Statistically, your chances of being a carjacking victim are very slim, and preventative actions can reduce the risk even more.
- Approach your car with the key in hand. Look around, inside, and underneath the car before getting in.
- Keep your car doors locked and windows rolled up at all times while you are driving.
- Be especially alert at intersections, gas stations, ATMs, shopping malls, and convenience and grocery stores – all are windows of opportunity for carjackers.
- Park in well-lighted areas with good visibility, close to walkways, stores, and people.
- Beware of the “bump and rob” where someone lightly hits your car from behind. When you get out to assess the damages, the carjacker’s accomplice gets in your car and drives away.
- Give up your car with no questions asked. Your life is worth more than a car.