Archive for the ‘car safety’ Category

Sitting Duck

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

I was parked in a large lot yesterday, trying to help a friend into my car. (My friend needed the help because he currently has casts on his arm and leg from a skiing accident.)  A young woman, 20-something, had just entered the car parked next to mine on the passenger’s side. I waited for a moment for her to back up and drive away.

She sat.

Okay, no problem. I would roll my buddy up to the door and we would proceed from there.

I walked up the narrow space between my front passenger door and her driver’s side door, conscious to avoid startling her. I need not have worried; she never noticed I was there. She was busily balancing her checkbook and chatting on her phone. (In my mind’s eye, I could see police officers shaking their heads and rolling their eyes already. This behavior, much more popular with women than with men, drives them crazy.) There’s nothing wrong with connecting with friends or keeping track of personal finances. In fact, both are recommended. There are, however, safer places to do them than in one’s car in a parking lot in the middle of the day. I also noticed that her door was unlocked and her window was lowered several inches.

The combination of her ongoing discussion and her financial calculating made her extremely vulnerable to attack. And I was directly beside her, my fingers right next to the handle of her unlocked car door. How easy would it have been for someone to rip open that door and either pull her out or jump in on top of her?

Her cell phone would have done her no good; the person she was talking to might hear her scream in surprise, but that’s certainly not going to deter a rapist from carrying out his plans. Her checkbook, lying open on the seat? It spells out her full name, address, phone number, and possibly other private information(driver’s license, Social Security number?) that–if she thought about it–she would prefer strangers and Bad Guys not to know.

After a few semi-acrobatic and balancing moves, my friend was able to get into my car. I turned to look once more at the lady next to us. She continued to chat and scribble away on her paperwork, never seeming to notice us. Her window was still open and her door, still unlocked. I thought about dropping a note in to her through that window, advising her to take a women’s self-defense class–she certainly could use some tips to make herself safer in today’s world. But, I didn’t do it. I didn’t want to scare her.

A New Meaning to Car Safety

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

The other day, a friend of mine came home to find a recorded message from the school principal on her answering machine. It seems that 2 students were walking home from school and noticed, after a few blocks, that a car was following them slowly. The kids wrote down the car’s license plate number, went into their home, and called the police. It turns out that the car belongs to a registered child sexual offender who lives in the area. When questioned by police, the man admitted to following the kids home, but denied he planned to hurt anyone.

My friend, the mother of 2 other students in that school, is concerned because 1) this criminal knows what time school lets out every day, 2) he knows which kids walk home, 3) he has stalked at least 2 and now knows where they live, and 4) he knows, by whether they walked through an open door or used a key or alarm code to get in, if anyone is home to greet them. As he stalked these children, he was also able to determine whether their street is busy or quiet. A simple glance at the number of parked cars tells him if anyone is around and likely to report a cry for help.

In her message to the school’s families, the principal stated that the school would be taking additional and immediate steps to insure students’ safety against this sort of threat. But, she added, once the children left the safe haven of the campus, their security rested within themselves and their parents.

This is where proactive self-defense comes in. Does your child walk to school? Or walk even a block or so home from the bus stop? It might be a good idea to walk that route with them and point out some safety options: “What if someone was following you in a car on this road?” If it’s a main road, the child could enter a store or business and state the need to call 911 (and then Mom or Dad). On a quiet lane, it’s important to know houses of friends or neighbors along the way who would be home and able to help in a dangerous situation.

Another common scenario: someone drives up, lowers their window, and asks for directions. Is it okay with you if your child tells a stranger how to get to the park? It shouldn’t be. It can put them within arms’ reach of a predator.

With kidnappers and child sex offenders brazenly cruising past schoolyards and playgrounds, following children home and luring them into get-away cars, it’s urgent that we teach our kids how to protect themselves. There’s a lot more to “car safety” these days than just buckling a seatbelt.