By MICHELLE SCHMIDT
For a few of us, nothing smells more like a summer trip than an overheated radiator. Or maybe it’s the hot asphalt, which we became more closely acquainted with while changing the flat tire. When it comes to summer travel, car trouble is often part of the adventure.
“If you’re going to take a trip, bring along snacks and water in the car,” said Lonnie Richardson, Idaho State Police District 2 commander, based in Lewiston.
And don’t just bring water for the people. According to Richardson, the most frequent stops by ISP troopers in the Lewiston area are for overheated cars climbing the Lewiston hill. For that reason, Richardson recommends stowing a couple gallons of water when driving a car that’s more than 10 years old. It’s also not a bad idea to pack some duct tape, which can patch a radiator hose.
In the event your problems exceed what water and duct tape can fix – and you decided against bringing your mechanic on this particular vacation – you may need to employ the universal vehicular distress sign: put up your hood. If there’s traffic on the road, eventually someone is likely to stop.
But what if averting one crisis lead to another? How safe are stranded motorists from would-be ax murderers?
The reality is they’re pretty safe. But while no local reports of such atrocities exist, it can happen and it’s not hard to avoid them. After propping up the hood, Richardson recommends that vulnerable travelers get back into the car, with the windows slightly cracked, until help arrives. When it does, simply explain the concern.
“Be up front with the person helping you,” Richardson said. “Say ‘I don’t know you, so I’m probably not going to get out of the car.’ Someone who wants to help you will understand.”
Crimes against travelers are more likely to happen against those who are traveling alone, especially women. Making good choices – calling 911 when you encounter a stranded motorist or to confirm the unmarked police car pulling you over is legit – will keep lone travelers out of most unsafe situations.
“You never hear about stories where someone was taking necessary precautions and avoided a situation,” said Richardson. But, he asserts, they happen. That’s why it’s important to know what to avoid and how to handle problems that arise.
“The biggest thing is to never go with someone,” Richardson said. “Take your stand. Don’t be a victim.”
Many times it’s that fight – especially a loud one – that deters attackers. They generally leave those who put up a fight in favor of those that cooperate a little better.
“A predator looks for someone who is easy. They’ll watch that person for a while to see if they’re practicing safety precautions,” Richardson said.
So bring a careful eye and bit of pluck on your summer travels, along with water and duct tape, and you’re likely to bring home some great stories, even if they involve flat tires.
Schmidt can be contacted at email@example.com or (208) 305-4578.
Follow these safety guidelines for the ultimate safe summer adventures.
1. Be careful where you park. Find a well-lit spot, whether in a garage, parking lot, rest area or on the street. Avoid spots where few other vehicles are parked and steer clear of vans, where wrongdoers can hide.
2. Have your keys handy. Fumbling for keys in a handbag can give a criminal the extra few seconds he needs to pull off a mugging, abduction or carjacking. Consider attaching a canister of pepper spray to your keychain.
3. Pay attention to vehicles near yours. When you head back to your vehicle, pay attention to anyone sitting in the passenger side of a nearby vehicle. If the vehicle is just idling, back off. This could be trouble.
4. Keep your vehicle well serviced. A poorly maintained engine can fail you at the wrong time — or place. Check batteries and tires routinely: a dead battery or flat tire leaves you vulnerable.
5. Have a plan when trouble arises. If confronted by a potential abductor or carjacker while you’re in or around your car, drop everything and run, while making lots of noise. Don’t go anywhere with an attacker, even if they say you won’t be hurt. If you are driving and discover someone hiding in your backseat, slam on your brakes to throw them off balance, put the car in park, take the keys with you and run.