Technology is a great thing. Cell phones are one of the most useful tools man has ever invented – or they can be a curse, depending on your attitude. One thing is certain, when someone needs help, they are invaluable.
I hate seeing stranded motorists, particularly the elderly, or families with children. At the same time, for one’s own personal protection, I don’t recommend stopping in every case to render assistance. I would never want my wife, either alone or with our children, stopping to render assistance to a stranded motorist. At the same time, I wouldn’t want her to pass a stranded motorist by without at least making a call if possible, for their benefit.
There are parts of the country today where a stranded person would receive the greatest care and personal service from total strangers. Thank God, we still have communities like that. I have rendered such service innumerable times in the past, and have had it given me in turn. But today, we often hear stories about stranded motorists being attacked, robbed, raped and murdered. We hear of good Samaritans who are similarly victimized when they stop to help what appears to be a stranded motorist, who is in fact a predator looking for a victim, or a criminal looking for new transportation. When I’m alone, I may take the chance. If I have my family in the car, I am a different person. My compassion is there, but it’s tempered with a heavy dose of reality. My family depends on me making good decisions on their behalf. I can’t compromise their safety out of a sense of compassion for an unfortunate individual who is stranded along side the road.
But that is not to say I don’t offer assistance or help in some way. It’s my practice to stop my car – but not exit it – and ask if there is anyone they would like me to call. Nine times out of ten, they will have already done so. If they give you a name and number, tell them you will make the call and that they should stay with their vehicle. You should then move your vehicle away from theirs for additional safety along the roadway. I like to drive off about a hundred yards to make the call. This way they know I am calling for them, but they also know I can’t be easily approached.
In addition to calling the name and number they offer, I always dial 9-11 and report the stalled motorist and identifying information about the vehicle and occupants. I do this for three reasons. First, if there is a police officer available they will be dispatched to make a contact with the motorist and this relieves me of any further responsibility. Second, it places me on record as making a call for their benefit. I will tell the dispatcher that I have moved my car some distance from the stalled vehicle so I can keep the motorist and occupants in sight. This will explain my actions to a third party in the unlikely event the stalled motorist finds my actions were suspect. Third, the police can run the license plates to determine if the vehicle is stolen or wanted in connection with a crime.
Regardless of how you do it, keep in mind that you’re most vulnerable when you have stopped your vehicle. Be extra vigilant. While you’re speaking with the stranded motorist, you may be being stalked by an accomplice. Never pull up behind the stalled car. If you have to stop, momentarily pull up beside the stalled vehicle if traffic permits or in front of it. This is so you have an unobstructed exit for your car. Pulling up in front also offers you some protection from other cars on the highway. Never exit your car, never turn your car off, and never put it in park. During your contact with the motorist, always be prepared to race away in an instant. Other things to consider are to decline to offer anyone a ride or to use your vehicle to jump-start a stalled vehicle. Every instinct is yelling at you to render assistance, but your safest bet is to do so with your cell phone.