Carjacking is a real concern. Most police and security experts have historically told us some version of this: “When confronted by an armed robber or carjacker, give up your valuables and don’t offer any resistance. Give up your car, wallet, purse, cell phone, jewelry, or money, and let them get away. Nothing you own is worth your life.” If that works for you and the overall safety of your loved ones, then do that. (Then again, if you have that mindset you probably aren’t on this site or reading this blog in the first place.) As for me, my safety, and my family’s safety, I politely and completely disagree with giving up, giving in, and rolling over.
“But what if you’re with your daughter?” say some people, “Shouldn’t you comply with a robber to keep her safe?” To this I answer, “If you’re a robber, the last guy on this planet you’ll want to ever see is me, protecting my kid from harm, because I will be the last thing you ever see.”
Protection From a Carjacking
About 25 years ago, I helped the president of a martial arts training video company write a script for an audio program on carjacking prevention. The thinking back then, as it is today, is that car alarms, engine, and fuel line kill switches make it harder for the average nitwit car thief to steal your car when it’s locked and parked.
Carjacking emerged as crooks came up against more sophisticated anti-theft devices. Now, we’ve evolved to LoJack-type GPS systems that help the cops zero in on carjackers, and the police love to bring the helicopters and the K9s.
Since most carjackers can’t defeat the alarms or the engine killers, they take your car from you while it’s running, by force, and usually with a gun and/or a partner with a gun, who drives the first car to approach you. They might grab you getting into or out of your car, or while stopped at a light, or even ram into the back of you and stage an accident to get you out of your car. (Why people still drive without locking their car doors and keeping their windows rolled tight baffles me.) So this vulnerable time is one of many things we have to address to keep carjackers at bay.
Always Stay Vigilant
Be wary of people who approach your car in twos, like at a light or a gas station. It might be a homeless guy and his pal or girlfriend; it might be a carjack team. When you drive, keep your head on a swivel. Whether it’s in your neighborhood, on the freeway, an unfamiliar road, or a city strange to you, pay attention in a 360-degree fashion. Don’t pull too close to the car ahead of you at a traffic light, so that you can’t pull away on either side if you have to.
If you have it – and you should – program your car’s navigation system and don’t use your phone’s Google Maps. You want both hands on the wheel, not one hand holding your phone, just in case you have to drive fast and away, if confronted by one or more armed carjackers. Drive tactically, alertly, and when ready, defensively (use your car to escape) and offensively (or use your car to knock down a potential killer pointing a gun at you).
Shooting From Inside Your Car
If you ever need to use your firearm inside your car, you will face several issues that are different from shooting outside it. First, you need to keep your gun well-secured, either in your on-body holster, in a mounted in-car holster, designed specifically for a vehicle, or in your everyday carry (EDC) bag. Your EDC bag needs to be close and secure. Your gun is of no value if your EDC bag gets wedged under the driver’s seat or falls into the back seat. Second, know this now: shooting your gun inside your car, even with all the windows down, will be shocking and deafening. You had better be completely stopped (with the car in Park, if you can). Juries don’t like rolling gun battles, even when the police do them.
Third, having to shoot at an armed attacker through your front windshield or side windows will cause your bullets to change their trajectory. Most times the bullet will rise up when it hits the glass, but this is unpredictable. You may hit what you aim at, but the bullet’s penetrating power may be diminished by hitting the glass barrier first. Last, shooting inside your car will cause your windshield to shatter, making it hard to see out at another armed attacker or prevent you from driving away quickly and safely. You may also inadvertently hit something or someone hard enough to deploy your airbag, which can be shocking and painful in an already highly-stressful situation.
Get The Police Involved
If saving your life is Job One, then getting away and calling the police from a safe location is Job Two. I don’t mean you flee the scene like a hit-and-run driver; I mean you get to a safe location, just up the block or around the corner, and call 9-1-1 immediately, telling them what happened, who you are, and where you are. You’ll want to watch this newly-created crime scene from a short distance away. When the cops get there, comply completely.
You already know you can’t shoot at someone who has taken your car by force and is now driving away from you. You can’t shoot someone who is not armed but who approaches your car aggressively – like a mentally ill homeless guy asking for money. Also, you can’t drive from the scene of your carjack shooting to your house and call the cops. You will have to articulate to the cops, many lawyers, and probably a criminal or civil jury, why you couldn’t just “drive away from the bad guy,” and why you felt you were in fear of losing your life from one or more armed carjackers.
No law says you have to give up your car to a robber; plenty of laws require you to justify your armed actions. Defend yourself on the road as you would in any other street or home situation where the threat of great bodily injury or death made you act with legal, lethal force.
What would you do in a carjacking situation? Let us know in the comment section below.
Contact Steve Albrecht at [email protected] or on Twitter @DrSteveAlbrecht