Tactical driving tips will allow you to be in the right frame of mind should a worrying, scary or dangerous situation arise. Sometimes, they’ll even make you a better driver in general. Other times, they might save your life.
These tactical driving tips are for everyday drivers, so they apply to people with pretty much any type of car in almost any part of the world. Read them, memorise them, and try to practice them if you can. It’s worth noting that if you’re in a dangerous situation, and you can phone the emergency services, it’s better to do that than trying to handle it on your own; however, we realise that it’s not always possible, and time could be a major factor in getting away from something threatening.
This might seem like an obvious one, but I know plenty of friends and family who simply disappear from direct communication while they’re driving. I understand that this is dependant on the technology in your vehicle, but it’s worth getting to know how to make a quick phone call in your car. I’ve had my current car for about nine months now, and I have yet to make a phone call in it, but one of the first things I did when I got it was figure out how to make a phone call without taking my eyes off the road.
This is useful for a number of scenarios. If you’re driving in a convoy of two or more cars and you lose sight of one of the group, it’s almost always easier to get in touch immediately with the missing car to get them back on track before they’re further away and even more lost. If you feel like you’re being followed, or chased, you’ll be able to make an emergency phone call. If you’re diverted from your usual route, you can make a quick call to somebody who might be expecting you to let them know you’ll be late. The point is, you never know if you’ll ever need to use this feature in your car, but I’d hate to be in a situation where I need to use my phone and I’m fumbling on my steering wheel, or infotainment system, to try and start a call without knowing how to do it.
Remember that communication isn’t just about mobile phones though. Your car has lights and a horn. Use them if you need to.
The average human jogging speed is around 6mph. Cars can drive faster than 6mph. Fact. If you’re in a bad neighbourhood, and you’re there to pick someone up, or you feel like you’re being targeted for some reason that is leaving you feeling uncomfortable or threatened, just keep moving. Using the last tip, you can call your friend and let them know that you’re circling around the block until they’re ready.
Alternatively, if somebody is approaching your car, or somebody is outside your car and threatening you, drive off. Even if you’re going at a slow speed, it will make it that much harder for them to do anything to you. It’s a lot more difficult trying to open a car door, or cause damage to a car, if it’s in motion. That being said, make sure your doors are locked and your windows are up.
We’ll cover an alternative option, for if you’re being followed by a car, in another one of our driving tips in a moment.
Every. Single. Day. I see everyday drivers – commuters, public transportation, cars, vans, lorries – bumper to bumper in traffic. If this wasn’t obvious enough, don’t do it. There’s a few reasons not to do this that will help you be a safer and more tactical driver.
If you’re almost touching the car in front of you, and the car behind you is too close for comfort, you are boxed in. What if the car in front of you broke down, and turned on their hazard lights? Then you can’t reverse because the car behind you has done the same. You can’t move your car if you need to, without causing significant damage to one, or possibly both, of the obstructing cars. Leaving enough room (you should be able to see their tyres and the tarmac) should give you the space you would need to turn in to a different lane and move away.
There’s some important questions to ask here. What if someone violent approached my car while I was stopped in bumper-to-bumper traffic? What if the car in front of me breaks down? What if I need to exit this lane quickly? Just leave room! It’s an easy habit to learn, and you’ll feel safer knowing that you have options if anything goes wrong.
This is likely the easiest of our driving tips, and the quickest to start doing on a regular basis. Just stop earlier than you normally would. Simple.
If you have a driveway, there’s a high chance that when you get home from work, or shopping, or coming back from any journey, that you drive your car in forwards. This means that when you come to set off again later that day, or the next day, that you have to reverse out. Under normal driving situations, that’s perfectly fine and it’s probably worked well for you since you started doing it.
There are a number of benefits you’ll get from spending that extra time to reverse in to your space though, and this applies to your driveway, a parking space at a supermarket, or practically anywhere where you can reverse in to a space instead of going in forwards.
When the time comes to set off again, you have a much wider field of view when you’re facing forwards. You don’t have to crane your neck to see if there’s pedestrians or traffic that you could drive in to. You don’t have to rely on your mirrors to make sure you’re not going to hit anything. This is a much safer way to be driving out on to a road that has potential traffic.
Also, if you need to leave your house in a rush, or if you’re being chased by a lunatic in a car park, for example, you’ll want to get in your car and leave rapidly! If you drive in forwards, you’ll get in the car, check your mirrors, check your blind spots, stick the car in reverse, back up slowly and make sure no cars are coming, make sure you don’t touch the other cars, switch in to first… you get the point. You will be off that driveway in seconds if you’re facing in the right direction.
It’s also worth noting that by reversing in to your driveway, you’re blocking your boot up against a wall, or a garage door and that makes it more difficult for potential thieves to snoop in your windows to see what’s in your car or have direct access to take a swipe at your boot lock. For cars with rear parking sensors, you can get a lot closer to your garage door to stop intruders from being able to break in to there too.
You’re Not In The Movies
Reckon you can pull off a handbrake turn to quickly out-manoeuvre someone? Yeah, that’s probably not going to happen. Most modern cars will be able to stop you from skidding, and you’ll either hinder your efforts to get away, bump in to something and damage your car, or – worst case – roll your car with you inside it.
Reversing at high speed? Leave it to the stunt drivers. You’ll probably hit something, or someone, and you’ll be left with a damaged car, and probably a lawsuit or jail time depending on what you bump in to. Besides, you can go a hell of a lot faster going forwards. Remember, in the movies, they’ve practiced the same route dozens of times and they know for certain what’s going to be behind them.
Unless you’ve taken rigorous advanced driving courses, it’s best to stick to what you know. It’s plenty easy to reverse for a few seconds, turn around and floor it.
Officially, we can’t tell you to do this, but it’s worth thinking about.
If you’re not sure if you’re being followed by someone in the car behind you, but you’ve grown suspicious of the same car and you’re scared, the quickest and easiest way to find out if they’re actually following you is to run a red light. By doing this intentionally (obviously, you need to be extremely careful not to cause an accident) and they follow you through the same red light, then you can be almost 100% certain that they’re following you. At this stage, you’d have a number of options.
These should seem familiar.
One, make a phone call to the emergency services to let them know that you’re being followed.
Two, if you get stuck in traffic, leave enough room in front of you to make a quick exit if the people behind start getting out of their cars.
Three, if they do get out of their cars at any point, just keep moving. They can’t get you out of your car if they can’t get to your door.
Finally, head towards your nearest police station. If you don’t know where that is, it’s worth a quick Google just so you can memorise where it is. If you’re being followed, you can drive past the police station with your horn going full pelt to draw their attention.
Again, we can’t endorse this, but it’s worth thinking about. If you’re near a police station, and you see a police car at a red light. What’s the quickest way to get their attention? Drive through the red light. Chances are, you’ll get pulled over with blue lights and siren, which is probably a good thing in this situation as the car following you will likely drive away as quick as they can.
Naturally, this should only be a worst-case-scenario and it’s a very dangerous solution to an extremely rare problem. It’s still worth having in your head though, even as a hypothetical.
How many of you get in your car at a multi-storey car park and then sit and check your phone and then set the radio, and any number of things before you set off on your next journey? Or in a supermarket car park at night? Or after pulling up and turning the engine off before going in to a restaurant? I do those things, but I probably do it slightly different to you because I do it in complete darkness.
I turn the interior lights off on my car, for starters, by flicking the little switch above my head to make sure that the light doesn’t come on when I open my door, or when I turn off the engine. I also refuse to turn on my headlights until I’m definitely ready to set off. On my car, the parking lights come on automatically when I turn the key in the ignition, so I don’t even turn the key until I’m ready either.
Why? Well, if you’re in a car park at night, or in a dimly lit multi-storey, and you’re just sat sending a text message while phone humming away to some music, you could be a potential target for someone looking to steal a phone, or even just a target for idiots looking to cause some damage to a car.
You’re going to stand out if your car is lit up and you’re not moving. Plus, if you’re being followed by someone, but they don’t know what car you drive, if your lights are on because you’ve just jumped in to get away, then they know what car you drive now. Lights off? They won’t know where to look. You could hide out in your car, or at least prepare yourself to get away quickly because you reverse-parked, right?
By the same respect, it’s best not to sit with your engine idling either – not least because it causes a build-up of pollution – but because the noise will also draw attention to you.