“Leave at least one car's length space in front of your vehicle when stopped in traffic."
Vehicular Stalking: Steps to Take When You're Being Followed in Your Car
Whether it's a case of road rage or an obsessed ex, being the target of vehicular stalking is dangerous and scary. When you're being followed in a car by someone with the intent to cause you harm, it is often referred to as "vehicular stalking" or "car stalking."
This dangerous behavior involves a person intentionally tailing another individual's vehicle for malicious purposes, such as intimidation, harassment, or physical harm. Vehicular stalking can be a serious threat to personal safety and requires immediate action on your part.
If you believe you're being followed in your car by a stalker or someone you suspect might pose a threat, it's important to prioritize your safety and take immediate action. Here's what you can do:
1. DON'T DRIVE HOME
The immediate safety of getting home may be your first instinct. However, avoid driving directly to your home if you suspect you're being followed. Instead, head to a public place that's well-lit and has other people around, such as a gas station, grocery store, or police station.
2. DON’T DRIVE TO FRIEND, FAMILY OR WORK LOCATIONS
You want to avoid driving to places that you frequent because an attacker may bail this time but come back to these locations to look for you at another time. Additionally, this may put the people you care about in danger of being targeted.
3. DON'T GET BLOCKED IN
Leave plenty of room in front of your vehicle at red lights and intersections to “drive out” of an attack and don’t allow your car to be blocked in. If the person following you starts to approach your vehicle or signals for you to pull over, do not stop. Keep moving to a safer location.
As a general rule, it is good practice to leave at least one car length distance between you and the vehicle in front of yours when at a stop.
4. BEWARE OF INTENTIONAL ACCIDENTS
A common tactic used by vehicular stalkers is to cause an accident in order to gain access to their target victim. If someone rear ends your car at a stop sign or red light, do not pull over and get out of the car to check damage. Instead, turn on your hazard lights and slowly drive to a well-lit and very public parking lot before getting out of your car to assess the damage and exchange insurance info.
5. HAVE YOUR SELF-DEFENSE WEAPON READY
Take your self-defense weapon off your keychain or out of your purse and have it ready to defend. Flip the power switch to stun mode and have your taser resting in your lap so you can grab it quickly if needed.
Pepper spray is not a good self-defense option in this situation because an attacker at your car window is too close to deploy pepper spray without being affected by it yourself. You need to be able to drive out of the attack as soon as a window of opportunity is created.
“Predictability makes us vulnerable to being targeted.”
6. CHANGE YOUR DRIVING ROUTE
Change your route multiple times to see if the follower continues to tail you. It is a good idea to change the way you drive to and from places that you frequent to keep your life unpredictable to potential predators. Leave a little earlier than you normally do for class. Take a different route to work every few days. Routines make us predictable. Being predictable makes us vulnerable. Mix it up.
7. STAY ON BUSY STREETS
Stay on busy streets where lots of cars and people are around if you think you’re being followed. You want to remain as visible as possible until you are able to contact police and have them intervene.
8. CALL THE POLICE
Surprisingly, your first instinct is NOT going to be to call the police. The first instinct most women will have is to call a trusted friend or family member. You can call them next. Call 911 first. Provide them with your location, a description of your vehicle, and the vehicle following you. They will stay on the line with you as an officer is dispatched to find your vehicle’s current location.
9. AVOID PULLING OVER
Do not stop driving until police are on the scene. Once law enforcement has located your mobile emergency, do not pull over until you're in a well-lit, populated area. This ensures your safety as well as the officer’s safety by increasing visibility.
10. COLLECT DETAILS
Make a mental note to collect as many details as you can remember while you are waiting for police to meet up with your moving car and intervene. In addition to the color, make and model of the car following you, try to get a good look at the driver’s appearance through your rear view mirror. Note their hair color, body size, sex and clothing colors for police identification if they divert law enforcement.
11. USE HAZARD LIGHTS AND HORN
If you're feeling threatened and can't reach a safe location immediately, use your hazard lights and horn to draw attention to your situation. This may cause your stalker to abort their mission when they are aware that you know you are being followed. Try to catch a good look at the driver as well as car make and model if they do leave the scene so you can give this information to law enforcement.
12. LOCK YOUR DOORS
Keep your car doors locked even while you are driving. This prevents anyone from trying to gain access while you're stopped. Many newer auto models have automatic door lock safety features available. Check your user manual to learn how to turn this feature on if you do not already know.
13. STAY CALM AND TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS
It's natural to feel scared or anxious, but try to stay as calm as possible. Clear thinking will help you respond effectively. If at any point you feel that your safety is at risk, trust your instincts and take the necessary steps to protect yourself.
When faced with vehicular stalking, swift and decisive action is your greatest ally. By implementing the strategies outlined here, you empower yourself to navigate these dangerous situations with confidence. Remember, your safety is paramount. Do not hesitate to call the police or seek help from others if you believe you're being followed by a stalker. It's always better to be overly cautious and take action than to regret not doing so.
Defense Divas® wants you to be equipped to defend yourself not only with a self-defense weapon, but also with the practical knowledge of safety awareness and prevention.
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