Your Car Is NOT a Family Member!


I have never in my adult life been what you would call timid and I sometimes lose sight of the fact that there are people who are.  I once attended an anti-terrorist driving school geared toward teaching driving techniques for those employed in the dignitary protection field.  There is a marked difference between “defensive” driving and the kind being taught at the school.  The raceway we utilized, called “Summit Point” in Virginia, was a typical two lane style road with hairpin turns, hills, straight-aways, S-curves and hidden bends.  Some of the exercises involved bringing two thousand pounds of steel to speeds in excess of 125mph at night while an instructor in another vehicle bumped you from behind while flashing bright lights in your mirrors, trying to make you lose control.  It’s funny, but seatbelts just do not feel adequate at times like that.

We were taught techniques that were terrifically hard on the machines we were driving.  High speed bootleg turns, Y-turns, threshold braking (anti-lock brakes do that for you now), deliberate spins and even ramming other blocking cars.  There were some of the students who just could not do it.  It wasn’t that they didn’t have the ability to learn and apply the techniques, but they didn’t have the mental and emotional capability to abuse the equipment.  I’m deadly serious!  Years and years of careful, cautious and safety-minded driving, always being defensive and never aggressive, had left them incapable of becoming deliberately reckless behind the wheel of a car, even in a controlled environment.

I don’t want to confuse the term reckless with any negative connotation in this regard.  While reckless can mean “careless,” nothing we were taught at this driving school involved careless action.  However, to successfully complete some of the exercises, a driver had to push their vehicle into maneuvers they had never before considered, at speeds they have probably never before driven, at risk to life and limb.  To accomplish this, requires a personality with a bit of a “devil-may-care” abandon hidden somewhere behind the facade of care, concern and reason.  I rather enjoyed myself.

Some students simply could not break out of the shell of care and concern for a good piece of machinery, and deliberately abuse it.  Unfortunately, since the driving portion of the course was only part of the whole program, they were more than likely passed.  Hopefully they were never detailed to be the dignitary’s driver in a high-threat environment.

Why am I telling you this?  Because while I can’t teach you how to be a defensive driver, I can tell you that your car is one of the most valuable and important “weapons” you own.  No one should be able to take you from it, or bring it to a stop if you don’t want them to, unless you have been totally surprised and are facing a gun from a few inches away on the other side of a quarter inch of safety glass.  As we have already discussed security awareness at length, I cannot understand how someone could approach your car on foot without you being aware or your suspicion level elevated.

Many people who are attacked while in their cars submit to the attack rather than take any action that would damage “Old Betsy” or possibly bend the fenders or doors of other vehicles in the immediate vicinity.  No, you are not driving a tank and for the most part it is not totally bullet proof, but behind the wheel you have a means of escape evasion under your control and if it means smashing up a few cars and breaking a little glass to keep myself and my family from falling victim to a thug, well then it’s demolition derby time!

All of the preceding was a bit tongue-in-cheek.  Each individual must determine at the moment of truth whether or not they have the means at their disposal to escape.  At the same time, as I have said numerous times, life is not safe.  A certain amount of risk is attendant in every form of personal security and defense.  I cannot suggest that surrendering your car and/or your safety and the safety of your family members or other occupants of the car is always wrong, or always right.  It’s a matter of faith, I suppose.  If you feel the criminal who is demanding your car is simply not going to kill you or take hostages, then by all means, let him have the Honda.  But if you get the niggling suspicion that the dancing lights behind the pupils of his eyes give you the impression of impending doom…, well what really have you got to lose?

Most of us never drive in a “high threat” environment.  Few of us will ever encounter a situation which causes us to decide between the paint job and the getaway.  Those of us who embrace the mindset that we are going to survive will have no trouble making that decision if we are ever faced with it.  Watch some police chase videos sometime.  You will see how difficult it is to bring a vehicle to a stop when the driver simply continues to try and escape and evade.  If anyone ever attempts to take you from your car, or your car from you, keep that in mind and decide accordingly.


About danielchamberlain

Former Chief of Police. Former Special Agent, AFOSI (Retired). Former Director of Security of multi-national corporation. Currently, Registered Nurse. Father Husband Outdoorsman
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6 Responses to Your Car Is NOT a Family Member!

  1. Becky says:

    Thanks, this is really something to think about.

    • Becky, thanks. Visit often. My interest in imparting some personal safety/security ideas stems from my career in law enforcement, and my current career taking care of people. People need to also care for themselves. I appreciate your visit.


  2. This is another great post, Dan. My late husband was a police officer who taught defensive driving, but learned–and believed in–“offensive” driving, exactly as you describe. It amazes me when people surrender so quickly to anyone armed with less than that gun at close range, when they’re *in* a weapon that likely weighs over a ton.

    Hope to see that compiled book someday!

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