In virtually all of my classes geared towards personal safety, we start off with a question: What is the best way to survive a disaster? The answer? Don’t be there!
It might seem like a trite answer, but it is much deeper than you might think. The underlying philosophy is to have high situational awareness – know what’s going on around you.
Once you’ve identified a threat – be it a hurricane, a riot or some road rage idiot on the freeway – your first action should be to get away from the threat.
In the case of road rage, slow down and let them pass you. Take a turn off if you are confident that you won’t be forced to stop at an upcoming light. This is generally something you only want to do in areas with which you are very familiar.
What if the Road Rager is “motivated” and continues to pursue and harass you? At this point, you need to understand that you’ve got someone who is choosing to act aggressively based upon some non-physical “insult” they perceive. They are not in a rational mental state.
If you have a cell phone, immediately call 911 and tell them what is happening. Give them a description of your car and the car following you (and license plate number if you can get it) and a physical description of the Rager. Do not hang up until you see the police.
If you must take an exit, make sure you’re not going to be “boxed in”. If you take an off ramp that has a stop sign at the end and you have cars stopped in front of you, be sure to leave at least two car lengths between you and the car in front of you.
As you are going down the off ramp, scan left and right for potential escape routes. If you have some sort of defensive tool, get it out.
If you must stop, lock your doors, watch the Road Rager and if they exit their car and approach you, drive away immediately. That may mean going off on a shoulder or up on a medium – just be aware of pedestrians or oncoming traffic. “Lean” on your horn and bring attention to yourself.
Do not become a stationary, passive target for the assailant.
If they remain in their car but continue to follow you, drive to a public safety building – the police department or a fire department. Don’t exit the car, just stop with the engine still running, lock your doors and again, lean on the horn.
If you don’t know the area well, drive towards any public area – a shopping mall, a hotel drive thru (not boxed in on one end) or a busy gas station. Lock and honk.
If at any point you become trapped, you should have your self-defense tool in hand and ready to be used. For most people in non-self-defense-friendly states, that means pepper spray or a stun gun.
If you must use your pepper spray, if at all possible, be sure the nozzle is outside of the car when you fire, as you don’t want to spray yourself or get hit by “blow back”. Immediately after using your defensive tool, exit the area – in your car if possible – and contact the police.
In any threatening situation, escape and evasion should be your first priority. If you are forced to use your self-defense tool, do not hesitate to do so, then contact the authorities as soon as you are safe.
You’ve now got a plan. Don’t panic! Many people will freak out in confrontational situations and do something to harm themselves or other “innocents” in the vicinity.
Relax – you’re in control!
One last thought: You are never under an obligation to be physically harmed before you defend yourself. If you have a reasonable belief you will be subject to physical harm or death, you may use whatever “tools” that are available to defend yourself. Including your car or any of its contents.
Be the rational adult in the situation. Don’t be a victim.