Situational Awareness: 14 Ways to Walk Like You Drive

How to Improve Your Situational Awareness.

You’ve heard the admonition to “Drive Defensively.” It means to always be ready for the possibility of encountering any dangerous occurrence while driving your vehicle. Be prepared. Think ahead. Anticipate hazards.

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

The scene doesn’t even have to be treacherous. For example, when you’re about to turn a street corner, it merely involves thinking through several sets in succession in what should be an automatic reflex:

  1. Most of your braking should be done in a straight line, before the corner.
  2. Trail off the brake smoothly as you turn in and enter the corner.
  3. Look through the corner for the exit.
  4. Apply throttle as you straighten the wheel back out at the exit.
  5. Choose your speed and driving lines based on the next corner, not just the one you’re in.*

Take the lessons you’ve learned in defensive driving and apply them as situational awareness techniques to your walking environment. Blogger Chris Bird says, “The goal is to be able to use your awareness to detect, assess, avoid, evade, counter, and prevail in the encounter.” These precautions may seem overwhelming at first in your everyday life, but remember, they’ve become second-nature to you when driving and they can be the same when walking.

[ Read SemperVerus articles on the subject of Situational Awareness ]

Prepare and Know Your Route

Just as you type your destination into an online map to determine your most efficient trip from point A to point B, think through the avenues, streets, sidewalks, and paths, as well as time of day and other factors before you set out walking to avoid sketchy parts of town and to have the confidence of knowing where you’re going and how to get there.

Bring Appropriate Tools

Jumper cables, ice scraper, car jack, spare tire, wrench, screwdriver, fire extinguisher, and more contribute to your motoring safety. What’s your on-body every day carry (EDC)? Daily arm yourself with such tools as a cell phone, knife, OC spray, tactical pen, defensive firearm, spare magazine, tourniquet, first aid items, etc., to be ready for any type of unexpected encounter.

[ Read the SemperVerus article, Checklist: Categories and Their Items for Every Day Carry (EDC) ]

Lock Your Doors

Keeping your doors locked while driving prevents criminals from entering your car while you’re stopped at a red light or in a parking lot. Similarly, keep your personal space “locked” while walking in public: place your wallet in a zipped pocket or your front pocket to protect it from pickpockets; sling your purse diagonally across your body from one shoulder and under a sweater or jacket; tightly grip your parcels and be mindful of how close people come to you; etc.

[ Read the SemperVerus article, Protect Yourself from a Carjacking ]

Keep Moving

You’re most vulnerable in a vehicle when you’re stationary. The same is true when walking. Be determined in your strides. Exhibit confidence. If you must stop to assess your bearings or for another reason, seek shelter such as a store and remain vigilant.

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

Intersection Lookout

When passing through intersections or starting up from one having the green light, intentionally look both ways in the cross street to keep from getting hit by a careless driver running a red light or stop sign. So, too, when walking, be attentive to driveways, cross-paths, parked cars, alleys, dumpsters, any shadowy byway or apparatus from which a threat could emerge.

Don’t Be Distracted

Diverted attention—such as texting—when driving is always perilous. Diligent observation is necessary to avoid accidents and risks. Likewise concentration is vital when on foot: look where you’re going; don’t bury your eyes in your cell phone causing you to be oblivious to the risks in your surroundings.

[ Read the SemperVerus article, Live Life Left of Bang ]

Be Suspicious of Other Drivers

Assume that every driver around you is either incapacitated by substance or alcohol abuse, mental deficiency, distraction, road rage, or medical crisis and drive with elevated caution. Correspondingly, consider the people you encounter in your walkway with a wary eye: they could be innocent or intentionally fiendish, looking for an opportunity to blindside you with a punch or threaten you with a weapon.

[ Read the SemperVerus article, Video: How to Manage a Stranger’s Approach and Maintain Self-Defense ]

Anticipate Evasive Maneuvers

To avoid potential accidents, it may be necessary to increase or decrease speed, sharply turn to the right or left, quickly change lanes, make a U-turn, etc. When walking, if you feel the hair raise on your neck or your gut is telling you something around you is not right, be ready to avert a threat by walking across the street, turning around, picking up or slowing down your pace, slipping into a building, or, in some other way, dodging whatever may be lurking to harm you.

Create Sufficient Space Around You

Just as you maintain a car’s length of distance between you and the car ahead of you in case that driver stops or veers suddenly, do the best you can to maintain at least 3 feet of space around you as you walk and don’t allow strangers to invade it.

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

Long Distance View

“Keep your eyes on the road” is the phrase used to remind us to observe what lies ahead of us in our driving path. Constantly looking several car lengths in front of us allows enough time to analyze possible threats and decide what action we must take to remain safe. The same is true when walking. Employ the 540/21 principle: continuously monitor the 360° of space ahead of and around you (full circle), plus the 180° up and down and above you, and take into account in this field of view specifically what is occurring out to at least 21 feet away. Distance is time; and time gives you options to react safely and responsibly.

[ Read the SemperVerus article, Why 21 Feet Is Not a ‘Safe’ Distance ]

Short Distance View

Looking far ahead is vital and so is scrutinizing what is near. The car next to you may suddenly waver over its lane line and you must make the immediate decision to swerve away. So, too, in walking. You must be ready if the person walking up to you who you thought had benign intentions suddenly lunged entering your personal space.

Side-to-Side Scan

Darting out from the roadside could be a deer or it could be a vehicle running through its red light at an intersection; instant action must be taken. In the same way, consciously be aware of your peripheral vision while walking to notice unusual and threatening movement on your sides. Keep turning your head, as though it were on a swivel, to be ready.

Look Through and Into Your Turning

Part of looking ahead includes perceiving what awaits you before you turn a corner. You don’t want to casually make your turn only to discover halfway into it that the street is blocked. When walking, stay close to the curb and away from buildings and alleys where criminals can hide in nooks, crannies, and shadows to jump from. When walking around a corner, keep your distance from structures that are able to obscure looming threats.

Check Your Rearview Mirrors

Defensive driving requires knowing the action that’s advancing behind you. As you walk, look behind you by periodically turning around, as well as by looking for reflections in store windows. Stay alert in your 360° field of view.

*Team O’Neil Rally School driving tip.

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