Defending Your Vehicle
A man’s home is his castle, or so the saying goes, but these days, we also tend to look at our cars, trucks or vans as a castle as well. They’re our refuge in the stormy maelstrom of traffic. They provide us with soothing music from the stereo and cool breezes from the air conditioning vents. However, just because our vehicles are comfortable, it doesn’t mean they’re invulnerable, and that’s why something like the Vehicle Defense Class from Go Noisy USA starts to make a lot of sense.
Neil Davis, Go Noisy’s chief instructor, is a veteran with years of service in British Intelligence in Northern Ireland, Afghanistan and a number of other locations, working primarily undercover in some of the hottest of the world’s hotspots. These actions required him to work primarily from “civilian” vehicles like passenger cars and trucks, so unlike other vehicle skills classes tailored to law enforcement, Neil’s classes have “real world” application for the armed citizen, as the needs of a teacher driving to work vary from the needs of an Uber driver who regularly has strangers in the car or a law enforcement officer at a traffic stop. The class was four hours in the classroom and four hours on the range and covered three different scenarios:
- Aggressive Motorists
- Violent Demonstrations
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Carjackings, according to Davis come in two different flavors: Opportunistic carjackings, where the crooks are looking for any old car in a storm, and planned or targeted attacks, where the goal is to relieve someone of their expensive car.
For the armed citizen, an opportunistic carjacking will most likely be a “wrong place, wrong time scenario,” something we can help avoid by not being in the wrong places at wrong times. Targeted carjackings, on the hand, are meticulously planned, with copious prior surveillance so the crooks know exactly when and where they are going to strike.
Which brings up an important point. Crooks choose victims based on how they look and act, so anything you can do to deselect yourself as a victim is probably a good thing. One way to do that is what Davis called the “soak.” Simply put, when you arrive at a new location, take a few seconds and “soak in” the environment. Where are the other cars parked? Is there anyone just standing around? If so, how many, and where are they standing? Who is coming and going from your destination, and what do they look like? Taking a few moments to observe your surroundings like this gives you a baseline of what “normal” looks like and allows you to quickly spot what’s changed when you come back out of your destination, helping you spot potential trouble before it becomes a real problem.
Angry attacks on the road, Davis says, generally aren’t caused by traffic jams by themselves. Rather, traffic is the spark that sets off an emotional reaction to pre-existing frustration, such as a bad day at the work or a previous incident on the road. Because these kinds of incidents are escalations of other events, being able de-escalate the event is critical, as is not escalating things even more.
Getting out of dodge and putting distance between you and your attacker is the fastest and easiest way to avoid becoming a victim of an incident that has the potential for violence, as is knowing your state’s use of force laws so you can respond in an appropriate way if violence cannot be avoided or de-escalated.
Here’s where things get really tricky. A mob blocking a road can turn ugly and violent in the blink of an eye, and that can change your response just as quickly. It’s one thing to be stuck in traffic surrounded by a crowd of angry, shouting people, and it’s another thing to have Molotov cocktails thrown at the car next to you and a brick come through your windshield.
Your options for what you should do if you’re alone are radically different than if you have people in your car. This is dependent on the situation, of course. If you can use your vehicle to exit the area, make great haste to do so. However, if you can’t get away (which is the optimal solution) because your vehicle has been disabled or blocked in by immovable objects and it’s clearly a situation where things have gotten out of control, staying in your car means staying in one place, making yourself an easy target. If you’re alone and have to use a firearm, Davis recommends exiting the car to engage an attacker as soon as things turn to lethal force because of the shorter draw time when standing and the wider range of options available to you.
However, if there are others in your vehicle and you can’t leave, he recommends having the unarmed passengers assume the “crash position” found on airliner safety cards into order to give themselves a smaller, more defensible position. Either way, the instability of a riot means you’ve got to have a flexible plan. A one-note response of going to lethal force as quickly as possible is probably going to get you and those in your car in a lot of trouble. We are not in control of the people outside our vehicle, and that’s where the problems can happen.
Staying safe when you’re away from home is a complex task that pushes all our self-defense skills to their limits. However, a calm, clear mind and having the tools and ability to respond quickly and appropriately can help us come out on top when everything has gone south.
Article by KEVIN CREIGHTON