One of the many much too common crimes these days is carjacking, the robbery of an occupied vehicle using force or intimidation. These stolen cars are then easily converted to cash for drugs or directly exchanged for drugs, the prime motivation for most vehicle thefts. It’s generally less risky for the criminal than a home burglary, and faster. And the average person is even less situationally aware in their car than they are at work.
Look around you as you’re driving … people singing along to the radio, talking on their cell phones, eating. I’ve recently driven alongside a car that had no fewer than three video screens going. Distracted driving is dangerous for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it exposes one to the predations of those who have no such distractions. As armed citizens, we already need to maintain a higher level of awareness of our surroundings. That need is heightened, not lessened, by being in our cars.
There are several simple preventive measures that one can take to lessen the chance of being a victim of a violent attack while behind the wheel. Keeping the doors locked and windows rolled up, staying alert to our environment, especially when driving through an unfamiliar area, and practicing defensive driving are all ways to minimize your attractiveness to predators. After all, leopards don’t go after the strongest, most alert member of the gazelle herd; they look for the weak stragglers.
If you do find yourself the target of a carjacking, your first goal should be getting away. If you have an opening to drive away, then by all means do so. Escape and evasion are preferable to engaging when one is in an unfavorable position, and there are few positions more unfavorable than strapped in behind a steering wheel. Professionals call it the “kill seat,” and for good reason. Knowing your vehicle’s position, the flow of traffic around you, and obstacles in your path allows you to see options other than sitting still waiting for trouble. Understanding your options is the reason for situational awareness … and it’s far better to risk a fender-bender or undercarriage damage than a fight while trapped immobile in a seat.
If escape isn’t an option, then commit to the fight quickly. Release the seat belt, and have your hand on your weapon before events progress to the point where you are actively engaged. Do NOT put the car in park! If it rolls forward, let it; the opportunity might present itself at a moment’s notice for you to hit the gas and bug out. However, once you’re engaged, focus on the fight! You can’t fight and drive.
Once you are actively engaged, the decision to fight from within the car or to exit it to engage the aggressor becomes paramount. The natural tendency of most people is to feel safer inside of their vehicles. However, as recent events in the media amply demonstrate, once the supposed protection of the car’s doors and windows is breached, the confined space only works against the occupant. In the Ferguson case, a mixed-race Grand Jury found that once Michael Brown had his head and shoulders inside Ofc. Darren Wilson’s vehicle, the close quarters eliminated all of the officer’s less-than-lethal options, leaving him no choice but to go to his primary weapon.
Also, many people have a misconception, thanks to decades of movies and TV programs, of what exactly happens when bullets strike a car body. Real bullets do not spark and ricochet off car doors and hoods. Real bullets punch through the light metal and plastic that modern automobiles are made of as easily as they do a Coke can on a fencepost. The only parts of a car that will reliably stop handgun rounds are the engine block and the brake discs / drums. Staying in your car thinking that it might protect you from catching a bullet is probably not be the smartest move.
There are valid arguments against exiting your vehicle, however. If children are in the car, abandoning it, and them, simply isn’t an option. Even without children present, exiting your car or displaying your weapon before the attack actually begins can have serious legal ramifications in many jurisdictions. Exiting your vehicle pretty much commits you to stand and fight; removing your ability to escape if the opportunity arises. Finally, the attacker or attackers may be too close to allow you to get out of your car. Exiting your vehicle to engage the aggressor is an option; just make sure you’re aware of the possible downsides.
Whether you fight from inside the car or out, there are two goals you have to keep in mind. The overall strategic goal is preserving your life, and the lives of those in your care. The immediate tactical goal must be keeping the attacker at a distance. You need space … space to move, and to act. An aggressor will try to take that space away from you. If they are successful, then your chances of winning the fight drop dramatically. You have to take that space and hold it. The sight of an expected easy target with a gun in their hands may be enough to do that. It may not. Either way, you have to be ready for the attack when it comes. Part of that is the aforementioned situational awareness, seeing and recognizing possible threats. Part is having a firearm accessible to you, in a location from which you can easily bring it into action.
If you typically carry your handgun in the small of the back, or even in the strong side, 4 or 5 o’clock position, it can be difficult to execute a normal draw while seated in a car. To do so covertly is almost impossible. Front of the body carry, either crossdraw or appendix carry, is much more accessible when seated, and the weapon can be drawn with a minimum of movement that would be visible outside the car.
There are systems available to mount a holster underneath the dashboard or steering column that might be a good option for in-car carry. I've never used one however, so I cannot speak to how practical they are. Also, there may be some legality issues in some jurisdictions. Likewise, off-body carry in a purse or bag is worth considering, provided you keep the bag close at hand. Mode of carry is less important than understanding that the mechanics of the draw will be different when you’re seated and unable to easily move. Having established a plan of action prior to needing it, and repeatedly practicing that plan, will assure that you know exactly what you need to do to arm yourself should the need arise.
Once you have your weapon in hand, and you’ve braced for the engagement, don’t let your attacker keep the initiative. Commit, mentally and physically, to taking action. Whether fight or flight, focus on the primary threat, but stay alert to the possibility that they have help. Do not assume that the surprise of armed resistance will deter an attacker. If it does, great. Now leave the area as rapidly as possible and contact the police from a safe location. If it doesn’t, then be prepared to respond quickly, violently, and decisively!
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