Not too long ago, I wrote a blog post about’s DVD and digital video course on vehicle self-defense, Vehicle Firearm Tactics. I discussed the importance of training with/around vehicles so we can better prepare ourselves for the chance encounters that may occur during our everyday lives. Along with specific types of firearms and self-defense training like this, it’s imperative to use good situational awareness and pay attention to clues that alert us that something no good may be about to happen. It’s also important that, while driving or riding in vehicles, we take steps to ensure our safety and the safety of those who may be with us.

Keeping Safe IN Cars

For instance, you always need to be aware of your surroundings when you’re in the car. Beyond noticing the traffic, of course, be sure to look for things that might affect your personal safety. Are you in an area that looks run down or abandoned? Are there people watching you or getting too close to your vehicle? You should stay off your phone while driving, but keep it nearby in case you ever need to call for help. And what about safe parking options? You may want to choose parking spots that give you easy access to the building but also provide easy exit points when you want to leave. You should also make it a habit to lock the doors as soon as you get into your car, whether or not you are ready to start it up and drive away.

Keeping Safe FROM Cars?

We talk a lot about situational awareness and personal safety. But lately, I’ve noticed a few things about some vehicles that have me thinking: What do these cars have against me? Why are the car companies out to get us? OK … I don’t really have any conspiracy theories going, but there are some things that cars are programmed to do that aren’t really helping to protect us.

For example, with most vehicles, as soon as you put the transmission in park, all the doors automatically unlock. I don’t want my doors unlocked (at least not whenever my 4Runner decides to unlock them)! I might have children in the car whom I want to keep in their places. I might not be in the safest environment. And I certainly don’t want to offer my door, the passenger door, the back doors and even the trunk for anyone walking by to open! (Have these car manufacturers sold out to carjackers?!) Yes, you can simply relock the doors, as I most certainly do. But I’m sure somewhere, someone forgets to do that each and every time. And then you risk losing your handbag from the passenger seat, the shopping bags from the trunk or even your toddler from the backseat (unless the child lock mechanism is engaged!).

A Personal Example

Oh! And here’s a fun learning experience that happened to me a few weeks ago: I rented a Kia Sportage for a work trip. On the way to the airport to return the vehicle, I stopped at a gas station to fill up the tank. The helpful little arrow by the fuel gauge informed me that I needed to pull in with the gas pumps on the left-hand side of the vehicle. But as I sat there, with credit card ready in hand, I could not figure out how to open the fuel tank cover. I looked for some kind of switch, lever or button inside the car. No luck. Nothing. So I jumped out of the vehicle and went over to the fuel cover. With no finger groove to pull it open, I pressed on the cover, thinking it may be one of those that pops open. Still, nothing happened. In a moment of desperation, I even tried to pry the cover open with the tips of my fingers. But that clearly did not work.

Angry that I would be late to the airport (and arriving with a half-empty gas tank), I got back into the vehicle and used my smartphone to search the internet for how to open the dumb thing. I soon discovered that the Sportage’s doors must be unlocked for the gas tank to open. What? That didn’t sound very safe. When I get to a gas station, I like to make sure that as soon as I have opened my door and I am ready to put gas in the tank, my keys are in hand and all the doors are locked. Why? A lot of robberies happen at gas stations because the passenger side door is open, and someone can easily steal a bag or a purse without anyone even noticing. Plus … I certainly don’t want anyone to be able to access any of my car doors while I’m busy pumping gasoline. So, in this situation, I had to unlock the doors, get out to push/pop open the fuel tank cover and then lock the doors again immediately while I was pumping the gas and using good situational awareness.

A Personal Warning

I realize that car manufacturers likely designed and programmed these locks and devices because they don’t want people to absentmindedly lock themselves out of their vehicles or lose their keys or something else while trying to get in and out and go about their business. But sadly, these things aren’t necessarily good for being safe in various surroundings. While it may end up protecting your keys and possibly your vehicle, it might not end up protecting your valuables … or you! So be mindful. And stay safe.