Armed Senior Citizen: Entering and Exiting Your Motor Vehicle Safely Everyday

…One of the places where we need to be especially aware of our surroundings is whenever we are entering and exiting our motor vehicle…

From The United States Concealed Carry Association (

By Bruce N. Eimer, Ph.D

“It is better, by noble boldness, to run the risk of being subject to half
the evils we anticipate than to sit in cowardly inaction, for fear of what
audacity might bring forth.” — Herodotus

Be aware of your surroundings. One of the places where we need to be especially aware of our surroundings is whenever we are entering and exiting our motor vehicle. In Florida, at least, where there are a lot of senior citizens, crime around vehicles and in parking lots is rampant. Vehicles can be like Venus Fly Traps. Don’t be a fly!  Be prepared. Every day, senior citizens are attacked (i.e., “mugged”) as they go about their business of entering and exiting their motor vehicles in an unaware state of mind. Criminals are aware of, and take advantage of, this glut of scared and unaware elderly citizens. Opportunistic criminals lie in wait in parking lots, and stake out people’s driveways. This means that you need to think about the act of entering and exiting your vehicle as a potential danger situation. Don’t allow yourself to get car jacked; the results are not pretty. Carjack victims have a greater than one in two chance of ending up dead or missing! 

Let the surprise be the carjacker’s, nut ours.

I have an elderly mother who lives in Florida. I know first hand that many seniors feel compelled to limit their lives to avoid becoming crime victims. They often do not venture out of their immediate personal zones of comfort—the one-mile vicinity around their apartment or condominium complex. They avoid going to see a late movie (even if they can’t sleep) and sometimes avoid even dining out or even going to the movies at all. This is no way to live!  Some scared seniors even live the life of a shut-in. It does not have to be this way!

So, what are some rules for staying safe when you are getting in and out of your motor vehicle?  First, never allow yourself to get distracted. Always maintain full awareness of what you are doing and what is going on around you. Have your personal defense tool or tools at the ready.

Stay in “Condition Yellow”—aware and alert. In this way, you are mentally and physically prepared to be approached, but not surprised. You know beforehand what you are going to do if you are in fact approached. This means having your verbal tape loops and automatic psychomotor routines ready to roll. You must have a plan. Having several tools such as those pictured in the photo should be part of your plan.

The North American Arms Guardian .380 ACP pistol is a little pocket gun that packs a big punch. Easy to carry and conceal, this little good luck charm will ruin any violent criminal’s day. And NAA, the great company that they are, will gladly customize yours so it is not only very pretty, but eminently controllable and shootable. Benchmade defensive folding knives are second to none in quality, durability, sharpness, holding an edge, and tactical useability. Plus, Benchmade will sharpen your knife for free for life!

Status check. Whenever you leave your vehicle make a mental note of its condition. Please be sure to always lock your doors!  When you return to the vehicle, note whether there has been any change in its condition.

Whenever you approach your parked vehicle, whether it is in your own driveway or a parking lot, make sure it’s in the same condition in which you left it. If it is not, proceed with extreme caution and do not enter! If something doesn’t look right, don’t ignore your perceptions. Try to figure out what it is that is not right, or just move away from your vehicle immediately and get help.

Carry small loads—even if you have to make multiple trips to your vehicle—keeping at least one arm free for movement. Carry your keys at the ready. As you approach your vehicle, observe it. Check its 360: Look around and under the vehicle. Look into the front and back seats before unlocking the door. When you open your door, keep scanning your 360 degree environment. This is a carjacker’s favorite time to rush you. So, make certain that no one is approaching before you begin to get into your vehicle. You must be prepared to deal with a situation.  While you are partially compromised as you are getting into your vehicle, you could be rushed by an attacker. Stay alert and keep your attention focused on the area around your vehicle and inside your vehicle as you get in.

As soon as you are safely in your vehicle, lock the doors. Once you are in and the doors are locked, do not dawdle!  This is not the time to clean, look for things, or to become distracted talking on your cell phone. Be deliberate. Remember, parking lots and driveways are dangerous places. Violent crimes occur in these places every day.

Use light. Try to park in lighted areas. However, if you cannot, have a powerful flashlight, such as the SureFire shown in the Photo. If it is dark outside, use your flashlight to check out the interior and underside of your vehicle. Such a bright light can serve several useful functions: It can help you locate the presence of an intruder, identify an intruder, and blind the intruder. The particular light shown in the photo can also serve to deliver a sharp knock to the intruder’s noggin and buy you time to get away. It can also help you find your keys!

Carry pepper spray. The Spitfire pepper spray shown in the photo can serve to ruin any intruder’s day! Again, pepper spray is a less than lethal force option that can buy you needed time to make your exit from the situation. Spitfire has the unique advantage of having a dispenser that facilitates “point shooting” or “point spraying”. In other words, you do not have to cock your wrist in an awkward position. You can point and shoot in any direction. Just point your thumb to aim, and dispense into said bad guy’s evil face. Now that’s easy. At 2 million Scoville Heat Units (SHUs) it is guaranteed to give an attacker a really bad day!

Things to do and not do:

If you are with a companion. Do not let yourself become distracted. Someone (probably you) should be the designated bodyguard. Let everyone enter the vehicle while you stand by the open door and scan your surroundings for threats. When everyone is safely seated inside the vehicle, promptly get in and lock the doors. The point is to be your own bodyguard. Unless we are rich enough to hire professional bodyguards (and even then we shouldn’t let down our guard), we have to take full responsibility for our personal safety.

Walk with confidence. Opportunistic criminals and violent criminal actors (as opposed to the criminally insane) look for easy prey. They select “victims” and not “victors”. As such, they search for people who appear weak and vulnerable, and those who are not paying attention. So don’t be a victim. As noted defensive firearms trainer and author, John Farnam, likes to say, “Own your magnificence. Walk with confidence. Be deliberate. Do not dawdle. Don’t be tentative. Look like you know what you are doing and know where you are going.”

Keep your valuables out of sight. Valuables are “dirt magnets”. Don’t attract opportunistic criminals. Keep your valuables out of sight and locked up if possible.

Carry a spare key. This is essential should you lose your keys. If you don’t have a spare set and you lose your keys, you will look lost and then you will become a target. Don’t let this happen to you.

Avoid conversations and altercations. If at all possible, avoid engrossing distracting conversations and altercations when you are entering and exiting your vehicle. Certainly you become a mark if you are arguing with other passengers in your vehicle. Stay focused and alert. If someone starts up with you, disengage promptly. Have an automatic verbal tape loop ready to help you to disengage. For example, in ascending order of verbal force:
 “Sorry sir, I apologize.”
“Sorry sir, I did not mean to offend you. I am sorry.”
“Sorry sir, I cannot help you.”
“Get away from me!”
“Leave now!”
“Get out of here!”

Rattle off the verbal tape loop and then leave. Don’t linger. The key is to avoid antagonizing strangers or other drivers. Also, it helps to avoid sporting on your vehicle bumper stickers that draw attention. Learn to live as John Farnam calls the “stealth existence”. It is much better not to be noticed. So, avoid wearing bright provocative clothing. Bright red, orange and yellow vehicles also draw unnecessary attention. Park and travel on main streets and in well lit, populated, areas as much as possible. If you feel you are being followed, drive to the nearest police or fire station, or populated area, and sound your horn for help. Remember, you can learn to use that cane or umbrella as an effective defense tool to discourage an attack, or put distance between yourself and an attacker and buy time to get away.

Additional Dos and Don’ts:

  • Don’t stop for disabled vehicles.
  • Do not pick up strangers.

If you are rear-ended or struck by another vehicle, stay in your vehicle and call 911. Keep the doors locked. If you sense danger, drive away and head to the nearest police or fire station after calling 911.

Summary: Be your own bodyguard:

Seemingly innocuous driveways and parking lots, as well as curbside parking situations, are crime magnets. Hopefully, we represent the positive pole. However, positive attracts negative. As such, we must be prepared to peel off negative polarities that are attracted to us, or camouflage our positive pole with the outward persona of toughness, invulnerability, confidence, and lack of receptiveness (and maybe even a little negativity). Remember do not dawdle. Be decisive. Go about your business aware and alert, and then promptly leave. Remember to watch and notice if you are being followed. Be your own bodyguard, and remember to carry your own personal guardian.


John S. Farnam. Defense Training International.
P.O. Box 917, LaPorte, CO 80535
Tel: 970-482-2520

Benchmade Knife Company
(300 Beavercreek Road, Oregon City, OR 97045
Tel: 800-800-7427
Fax: 503-655-6223.

North American Arms.
N.A.A. of Provo, Utah

Spitfire Pepper Spray.
Personal Defense Solutions

SureFire, LLC.

Published in: on January 14, 2011 at 3:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

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