How to Survive a Carjacking

Dear Brendan,

What do you think of when you hear the word “carjacking”?

If you think of a frantic, fast-paced very dangerous scramble for control of a car at a stoplight, you’d be right. There are other scenarios, but they’re all scary and fast paced and the driver is under attack.

It’s a scary possibility and a lot more common than most people think. So, today, I’d like to shift the odds into your favor in a carjacking scenario.

Remember SA or Situational Awareness? Here’s some good news about carjackings—you greatly harden yourself as a target by improving your Situational Awareness, which we have already talked about.

Mental preparation is what will turn you into a survivor. The best way to amp up your mental preparation is to start asking all the right questions. That’s what we will start doing today.

First, set the scene.

Are you in a car that is moving or stationary?

If moving, are you in traffic or moving solo?

In a neighborhood with stop signs or traffic lights?

Are you parked in a grocery store parking lot? A mall? Even your own driveway?

Are you getting gas? That’s a very fluid situation and you’re easily distracted, doing a lot.

Surviving any of these scenarios involves high SA. SA is what keeps you from getting ambushed in—or getting in and out of-- your car. 

Second, consider what others have experienced.

Because people are easily distracted and busy at a gas station, let’s look at that scenario.

Remember criminals are like animals.

They prey on the weak, those not paying attention to their surroundings. Easy targets.

Most gas station carjacking victims make similar mistakes. Which of these do you make?

·       Not paying attention, no SA gives the criminal an opening

·       Failing to keep the passenger doors locked; another opening

·       Leaving the passenger doors unlocked and being distracted, they didn’t look inside the car before getting back in; more trade space for the criminal

·       Leaving the car keys in the ignition or on the front seat of the car; it just gets better for the bad guy

Here’s a common mistake a lot of men make and they think it’s a smart thing to do: once the carjacking’s under way, they try to stop the carjacker by reaching inside the window and fight with the carjacker over control of the wheel. 

It’s natural and very foolish for men to do this.

Dangerous for so many reasons.  Would you be prone to doing this?

Hey, your vehicle is not worth your life.  It’s why we have car insurance. 

Now if you have your children or family inside the car it’s a game changer we will discuss later.

Any time you are out with your children or family it’s a good idea to be armed, but that’s a whole different story.

Third, is this a planned attack or a crime of opportunity?

A key planning factor is knowing the difference between a carjacking of opportunity versus a planned carjacking you can think of as an ambush. 

Two very different things and the tactics to defend yourself and your family from a planned ambush go beyond that of a thug committing a carjacking of opportunity. 

Our goal today is get the brain engaged and start thinking, so I will discuss ambushes at a later date, but all of this comes back to having the right mindset.

Do you live a lifestyle that might make someone want to plan to attack you?

Is your body language telling those around you you’re an easy target?

The answer to the first question will help you with a planned attack.

The second question helps you with crimes of opportunity.

Have a plan, use what’s available to you, and survive.

It all starts with mental preparation.

Fourth, if you had to, could you use your car as a weapon?

If you suddenly found yourself in a life or death carjacking situation, could you use your car to defend yourself?

Sometimes defending yourself is just getting away, but what if the carjacker tried to block your exit and got in front of your car?

Think about it.

If you were a carjacker and asking yourself those questions from a criminal’s point of view, how would you assess drivers in traffic?   

Look around at people inside their cars next time you are at a stop light or stuck in traffic. 

Most people have their heads down looking at their cell phones. 

Look closer. Their body language, posture, their vehicle itself, inside and out, their passengers.

Who could you carjack and why? 

What did you see that told you that person and car was a soft target? 

Now flip it around. Think of yourself. 

How would you carjack yourself?       

Every time you get in a vehicle you have a chance to hone your skills.

Get in, lock the doors, look around.

You have mirrors. Use them.

Improve. This alone improves your odds. 

A tactical mindset is like a warrior mindset.  I want you to start thinking self-offense and not so much about self-defense.  Act like a man of thought and think like a man of action. 

I cannot stress the importance of having the proper mindset enough.  Your mindset will likely determine your success/survival.  As an example many people carry guns, however how many truly have the will/mindset to use their firearm?          

This shooters mindset directly translates to driving and using your car as a weapon.  You have to recognize that your car is a weapon and have the will/mindset to run a criminal/threat over with your car if needed.  You need to start mentally preparing yourself for such a reality now.  This is no different than practicing shooting at targets that are pictures of people.  This must be ingrained in you or you may hesitate or freeze at that critical time.  Such hesitation could cost you and your family dearly.  Once you reached the level of deadly force you should know that your car is a weapon and truly no different than a gun.  On that note, just as your gun can be turned against you so can your car.

Let’s talk tactics that used by good guys (LEO) and bad guys (criminals).  To keep this short, this is real simple.  Good guys are concerned about liability, injury and safety factors.  Bad guys don’t generally care about liability, insurance, lawsuits, or safety of others.   

For us good guys I’ll think like an operator or PSD vehicle movements and as a dad with my daughters.  As the driver you can close the distance quickly with someone on foot.  But you also have to worry about obstacles, people, cars, etc.  You need to be thinking about distance and speed.  In some cases you may want to close the gap between you and the car in front and other times you may want to leave space to drive around.  Always keep good SA.  Pay attention to other cars around you slowing, stopping or speeding up.  Remember your car is just a tool and you have insurance.  With that said know you may have to rub up against other cars, push bumpers, jump curbs, dividers, and sidewalks.  What I’m trying to say and prepare you for is if you need to hit a car around you, drive over an obstacle to get out of a bad situation than that is what you do.  Do not hesitate.  A quick tip about driving over curbs and dividers is not to go head on, but to drive over them at an angle.  You also do not need to be driving at high speeds to do this.  You can also slowly put your bumper on the back fender of a car in front of you and push through at a low speed.  You don’t want to ram the car ahead of you and set off your airbags or cause damage to your front end that could disable your car and render it inoperable.  This is a common driving tactic used by PSD teams in convey movements.      

If you carry concealed you should practice drawing your weapon from inside your vehicle in various scenarios.  Just as you would what if various scenarios at a mall with your family where there is an active shooter.  There are always variable to consider.  Such as is it quicker to hit the gas, drive around, or draw your gun?  Do you have your family in the car?  It all depends on the situation at hand.   

As for the bad guys, you simply never know what they will do.  You control what you can control.  You don’t make careless mistakes.   For example you don’t leave your car unlocked.  You don’t leave your keys in the ignition or front seat in plain view.  You certainly don’t leave your young child or children in the car alone.  You also think/plan ahead for most common courses of action that bad guys will use, such has cut you off and jump out for their car quickly to carjack you.  So what do you do?  Do you stop, drive around, push through, hit the gas, put it in reverse, drive over the guy, or maybe you decide it’s best to just give him the car.  Think about it.  You can see how having good SA is so important.  Think back to the OODA loop.  And your mindset is always key. 

I’m going to pause here for a moment.  I’ll continue this soon with a focus on armed carjacking’s, considerations when your children are in the car, other variables and more specific training.

Till than, drive safe.

Your Friend,

-Travis