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Safety Tips for Traveling Alone

by B.J. Killeen

On Your Own On the RoadAlthough the car-stalker scenario is a definite possibility when traveling on the highway, there are other situations where it's vital you keep your calm and know what to do. Football junkies know that the best defense is a good offense. This also holds true for security when traveling.

A good video for any woman who travels frequently by car is called "Traveling Alone in America." The 36-minute tape/program, sponsored by Car X (a muffler and brake shop) and endorsed by police agencies nationwide, offers three scenario/re-enactments of possibly dangerous situations. The first one chronicles a woman who accepts help from a man to change her flat tire. She ends up being abducted, assaulted and killed. Violent crimes like this, according to statistics, happen every 22 seconds, and with 13 million female businesswomen who do the majority of their travel by car, an attack like this is a real possibility.

The second scenario deals with a woman who travels by plane, then rents a car. She experiences potentially harmful situations in her hotel and when driving the rental car. The final scene is presented by the real victim of the crime, a flight attendant who was traveling alone on the highway at night. She details the experience from memory, and presents a convincing case for alertness and awareness.

Some of the tips mentioned in the video include the following:

*When traveling on the highway, always be aware of your surroundings. Know any directions you may need and keep at least a half tank of gas in the car.

*If you're driving a rental vehicle, request a car with no identifying stickers to reduce the chances of being a target. Walk around the vehicle before getting in to check for problems that might stop you on the highway; for example, a tire with low air or a muffler pipe hanging down. Only do this outside, though; if you're in an underground parking area, getting inside and locking the doors is the primary objective. You can do a walkaround at a gas station or outside the garage.

*If you do have problems, stay in your car. There's no substitute for the peace of mind that comes from owning a cellular phone, so get one as soon as possible. If not, put up a "call police" sign in your window. Never raise the hood of the vehicle--it attracts the wrong element and obstructs your view.

*If you're driving at night in a desolate area and someone hits your car. Remain in the car, try to get the other vehicle's license plate and ask the driver to follow you to a police station or other public area. That way, if there's anything suspicious, there won't be any opportunity for trouble. If the driver leaves, don't follow him; just write down the license plate and report it to the police. An extra bonus is to get a description of the driver. Don't worry about leaving the scene of an accident. If you feel you're in danger, your personal safety comes first.

*Traveling by air or at a hotel, never put your full name on your bags. Use valet parking whenever possible. Ask the bellhop to check your room, and you check to make sure the telephone is working. Never open it without asking for identification. Buy a door alarm; they're inexpensive and well worth the good night's sleep.

*Always keep your car keys in your hand and ready. Use the "fisted key" approach, with the key sticking out between your index and middle finger to use as a weapon if necessary. Make sure you check the back seats before getting inside.

*When you buy a new car and opt for the remote keyless entry, look for the kind that has a panic button; this will trigger the car's alarm system and scare away attackers.

*Keep your car in good shape with regular services; check all fluids and pressures before starting on a trip.

*Always let someone know where you're going, when you expect to be there and how you can be reached.

A lot of this information is just common sense, but in this day and age, it's important to put security at the top of your agenda.