The Portland PD are warning that, over the past few months, a mentally disturbed man has been trying to enter cars while drivers have been stopped at an intersection. This is a scary situation for sure, and it happened recently to a friend of mine. I know people who have experienced this in other cities with other people. Police say the man appears not to intend any harm, and I’m not aware of any carjackings in Maine recently. However, it pays to be safe – so I want to share a few tips:
1. Always keep your car doors locked.
You should lock your car doors when you are parked – yes even in your own driveway. You should drive with locked doors. Someone trying your door handle and not being able to open it is not going to slip into your car without warning.
2. Maintain awareness
You can’t prevent something that you can’t see coming. If you’re stopped, keep your eyes open. I know it’s tempting to check that cell phone, or slap some lipstick on while looking in the rear-view mirror. Environmental and situational awareness is the best preventative measure to thwart most violent crime,
3. Leave room at red lights
When you stop at an intersection, leave enough room between your car and the car in front of yours that you could pull away without reversing. Even if you had to drive up onto a sidewalk or even into the opposite lane of traffic, at least you’ll have options.
4. If someone gets into your car, get out or get them out
If a stranger does enter your car this could be a very dangerous situation. You have a couple of options. One, you can yell to get out – or try to physically push them out. I suggest leaning on the horn while you do this to draw attention / scare them off. If you can’t get them out – you get out. If neither works – say you have children strapped into the back of the car, a final but dangerous option may be to force a crash – preferably at lower speed into a stationary object. I don’t give out legal advice, and I am not a lawyer, so I can’t really comment on whether using deadly force against somebody in your car would be legally justified in the state. I will say that you do not appear to have the same legal protections in your car as you do in your home. My advice, if you do decide to carry a weapon in your car for self-protection, is to get training and learn the as best you can.
5. Never let a criminal take you to a second location
There are very few hard and fast rules in self-defense, this is one of them Forcing a crash is usually preferable to allowing an abduction. Most abductions are not survivable. Again, try not to hit another vehicle or endanger other lives, look for a stationary object to strike, and try to do it at relatively low spee