We’ve all seen it in the movies. The hero is driving along, and then, casually glancing in the rearview mirror, he notices a sinister looking car trailing behind him. He turns down a side street, and the car behind follows suit. A few turns later and his suspicions are confirmed: he’s being followed. What ensues is a frantic and meticulously choreographed chase sequence through the heart of the city.
Well, as with so many things, films don’t really give you the best advice on how to react in a similar situation. Here are five things to do when you think that someone might be following you on the road.
Just because it looks as though you’re being tailed, doesn’t mean that you are. Coincidences do happen and it’s possible that this car just happens to be heading in the same basic direction as you. The last thing you want to do, whether you’re actually being followed or not, is slam on the gas and go speeding off. Keep calm and make a few course corrections. Try to stay to well-traveled and well-lit roads. To really see if you’re being followed, do some backtracking or driving down the same road several times. If the car never leaves your rearview mirror, then you may need to move on to step two.
2. Don’t stop your car
Sometimes people will pull over to the side of the road to see what the problem is. This is a very bad idea. If you think you’re being followed, the last thing you want to do is put your car into park. Even if you think that you’ll be able to find someplace that is populated and well lit, you’re better off staying in your car and in motion. People have been abducted or attacked in crowded places in the middle of the day; don’t count on your pursuer to give up just because you found a 7-11.
3. Inform the police
As you continue to drive, see if you can get a look at the license plate of the car that’s following you. Yes, chances are you’ll have to read it backwards through your mirror, but it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out. Once you have it, and assuming you’re carrying a cell phone, contact the police. Let them know what road you’re on and in which direction you’re headed. They should have a patrol car out to assist you within minutes.
4. Stay secure
If the car begins to become aggressive, perhaps by riding too close to your bumper, swerving in and out of your lane, or even by colliding with you, do whatever you can to protect yourself. Make sure all your doors are locked and your windows are up. Defensive driving is the key, here. Try to avoid the other car and don’t allow it to force you to the side of the road, but be sure that you don’t increase the danger of the situation by driving recklessly. Start honking your horn in long bursts to get the attention of anyone nearby. If you’ve already called the police, then this will also help them locate you. If you don’t have a phone handy, then hopefully someone else who does will report the disturbance.
5. Protect yourself
If the other car manages to force you off the road or otherwise stop you, be prepared to defend yourself. Again, make sure that your doors and windows are secure. Also double check your safety belt, so that if the attacker does breach the car, he won’t be able to simply pull you out without a struggle. If you can, activate your car alarm. Look around inside the your car to see if there is anything that you could use as a weapon. A tire iron or a crowbar might seem like the obvious choice, but remember that other items can be used just as effectively. A long car-key, held between the knuckles, can do serious damage. And a red hot cigarette-lighter against the face (or especially the eye) of an attacker might make them reconsider their actions. Whatever you do, don’t leave your car or instigate an attack without being directly threatened. It is possible that the other driver forced you off the road for a reason other than wanting to harm you. Perhaps they’re suffering from a seizure, or are driving while intoxicated. As with before, your best bet is to alert the police. So make noise, turn on your hazard lights, and flash your high beams at any passing vehicles. If you can keep your attacker from removing you from your car, you should be safe until help arrives.
About Author: John Carver is a freelance writer for DefensiveDriving.com . He spends his free time working on his cars and coming up with new ways to pester his wife.