Protect Yourself from a Carjacking

Your wallet isn’t the only item criminals want to steal. Your car appeals to them too. Be prepared.

  • Read news articles about carjackings and mentally imagine what you would do in each situation
  • More than one person or a group generally commit these violent carjacking thefts.
  • Know your route. Avoid driving in unfamiliar neighborhoods.
  • Keep alert while your vehicle is moving and while it is idling
  • Carjacking most often occurs in transitional spaces such as parking lots and gas stations.

[ Read the SemperVerus article, Active Self Protection Self-Defense Checklists and Acronyms ]

[ Read the SemperVerus article, Self-Defense Tactical Driving Tips ]

  • Fuel your vehicle only during the day at gas stations in well traveled areas. Scan the gas station for suspicious behavior or loitering before you select a pump. While fueling, keep your car locked and keep scanning your surroundings to be prepared to take action (e.g., use the gas nozzle as a jet stream) should a vehicle or person approach you in a threatening manner.
  • Constantly scan your surroundings as you fill your vehicle with gas
  • Always shut off your engine and lock your doors when you leave your vehicle; even if only for a minute or two (e.g., to pay for gas).
  • Keep your vehicle in good driving condition and fully fueled. Develop the habit of refueling when the gauge displays one-quarter empty.
  • Be alert to cars driving beside or behind you, especially with passengers uncomfortably looking at you.
  • Stay alert at every stop you make: stop signs, traffic lights, fast food drive-throughs, gated entrances, highway exit ramps, gas stations, parking lots, ATMs, etc. Watch what pedestrians are doing; be suspicious if they’re loitering or panhandling.
  • When stopped in traffic, maintain enough maneuvering distance to escape if necessary by always being able to see the bottom of the rear tires of the car ahead of you. Think of how you would escape from the line of cars you’re in if necessary.
  • Keep all your doors locked at all times while driving and your windows closed.
  • Stay in your vehicle if another car bumps yours; it may be a staged accident to get you out of your car. Take a photo of the offending vehicle and its license plate. Call 911.
  • If you suspect you’re being followed while driving, make a series of right turns around a block or two; if the car is still behind you, call 911. Keep driving in well traveled areas. Don’t go home. If you know a police station is near you, drive to it. Or drive to a hospital’s emergency room door where you’ll be greeted by a medical worker or police officer.
  • When driving into a parking lot, select a space close to the entrance of the store that’s not immediately next to an already parked vehicle. If possible, park your car only in an area with empty spaces on all sides.

[ Read the SemperVerus article, A Simple Chart for Situational Awareness ]

  • Don’t park next to, or near, a panel van, from which a bad actor can quickly emerge through the sliding side door to threaten or kidnap you.
  • Practice “tactical parking”—pulling through a parking space so the front of your vehicle points to the parking lot traffic lane thereby avoiding having to reverse out of the space when you might need to leave quickly to escape an attempted attack. Or back into a parking space to achieve the same effect.
  • When parking at night, get as close to a street light or parking lot light as you can.
  • Avoid sleeping, reading, or merely sitting unaware in your vehicle. Cars are safest from carjacking when they’re moving.
  • Before opening your vehicle’s doors, use all your windows and rearview mirrors to scan the area surrounding you for possible threats.
  • Don’t leave valuables in clear view through your windows. Hide them in your glove compartment, under your seat, in your trunk, etc.
  • Shut off your engine, take your vehicle key, and lock your doors every time you leave your vehicle, no matter how brief a time you’ll be away.
  • As you walk away from your car, turn around and take a mental picture of its location to prevent you from forgetting where you parked upon your return.
  • When walking to your vehicle, watch for suspicious slowing, following, or stopping of a vehicle around you (thugs may jump out)
  • Beware of a note or money under your windshield wiper when you return to your car. It may be a ruse to distract you enough to be attacked.
  • Always stay situationally aware of your surroundings when approaching or leaving your car anywhere in public. Scan the area broadly, then zero in on your vehicle and its immediate vicinity.

[ Read the SemperVerus article, Defending Yourself Against Mobs and Riots ]

  • Be aware of nearby vehicles that are occupied.
  • Walk toward your parked vehicle with the key already in your hand. Don’t unlock your vehicle by remote control until you’re ready to enter it.
  • Walk erect and alert, and keep your phone off and in your pocket or purse; don’t be distracted by your phone’s screen as you approach your vehicle, once you’re seated in it, at stop lights, etc. Always stay alert to everything around you.
  • Avoid having both hands full of packages. If necessary to defend yourself or escape, drop what you’re carrying or throw it at the attacker(s).
  • Be suspicious of people asking for directions or the time. Keep distance—and if possible, obstacles—between you and strangers. Listen to your intuition. If you sense something is wrong, walk in another direction, stay away, or return to a populated area (store, etc.) and call 911 or seek assistance from security personnel.
  • Before entering your vehicle, look in your windows to scan the front and back seats for possible threats.
  • People threatening you with guns, knives, or any other weapon to carjack you while you’re in your vehicle are generally considered to be attacking highly defensible property (because you’re in it at the time) during which time you might choose to use deadly force in self-defense against death or serious bodily injury (e.g., using your vehicle or firearm as a defensive tool). This is not an option if your vehicle is unoccupied.

Firearms instructor Brian Smith of Metropolitan Police Self-Defense Institute offers more tips here and here.

More self-defense tactical driving tips:

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