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Road Trip Precautions -
Safety Tips for Vacations on the Road

by Kimberly Ripley

It's inevitable. At some point in your career, you'll have to go on a road trip. Whether you'll be driving 100 miles or 1,000, you'll need to take certain precautions while getting from your front door to your business destination.

And since we all know one wrong turn can take you miles (and possibly hours) out of your way, the first thing you need to do before you step foot out of your house is make sure you've got decent directions. 

AAA has the infamous Triptik, but one of the fastest and easiest ways to obtain directions is online through MapQuest,,  which provides door-to-door directions even the most directionally-challenged of us can understand.

Safety Issues

According to the United States Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics, "Carjacking is defined as completed or attempted robbery of a motor vehicle by a stranger to the victim, it differs from other motor vehicle theft because the victim is present and the offender uses or threatens force."

The issue of carjacking has become a major concern along America's roads.

Often occurring in parking lots, this particular crime often ends in violence. According to FBI data, each year approximately 26 homicides by strangers involved automobile theft.

Chris E. McGoey, also known as The Crime Doctor, and owner of McGoey Security Consulting in San Francisco cautions, "A copycat scheme used by carjackers is to bump your car from behind to get you to pull over and stop.

We have all been trained to always stop following an auto accident and exchange license and insurance information. What a perfect scenario for a carjacker!"

In addition to this particular facet of the crime, there are several other popular locations where carjackers often wait for victims.

"Popular carjacking locations are parking lots, shopping centers, gas stations, car washes, convenience stores, ATMs, hotels, valet parking, fast food drive-thru, and outside of retail stores. Proximity to a freeway onramp is a desirable location from the carjackers perspective," McGoey adds. 

"A more risky location for the carjacker is a roadway intersection with a stoplight," he continued.

"A carjacker will jump out of another vehicle, pull open your unlocked driver's door, and force you to get out. The location of this type of carjacking allows for a quick escape but increases their risk of being followed by other drivers armed with cell phones. There have been incidents where well-meaning citizens got into a high-speed chase following carjackers and ended up being victims themselves."

Ideally, you won't be traveling on the road alone, but most of us businesswomen (and businessmen) hit the road alone. Whether you're alone or with a co-worker, there are precautions that must be taken. In essence of safety and security, many female business travelers have mandated the following guidelines:

 1. Do not pull over in a highway rest area after dark, unless the area is deluged with other vehicles.

 2. Do not pull over into the breakdown lane on the highway. If you  absolutely must stop, wait until you can pull far off the road onto a grassy area.

 3. Try not to use a cell phone while driving. We all know how distracting they can be, so pull off at the next exit if you have to make an important call.

 4. Don't appear lost or ask for directions within direct ear-shot of onlookers. Women traveling alone are targets for a variety of perpetrators.

 5. Don't peruse a map in plain sight of onlookers.

 6. Do not exit your vehicle if anyone in the surrounding area looks suspicious. Find another place to stop instead.

 7. When returning to your vehicle, survey the entire parking area before approaching your car. Be on the lookout for suspicious looking people. When approaching your car, come toward it from far enough away to see under your car, and look into the back seat before getting inside. Lock the doors as soon as you in inside the vehicle.

 8. If you believe you are being followed, take the nearest exit, and proceed to a place that is heavily occupied -- an open store, restaurant, etc. Ideally, drive to a police or fire station or a hospital. Don't get out of the car. Stay inside and blow your horn until someone comes out to help.

 9. If you are on a lengthy stretch of road, and fear you are being followed, blow the horn, use your flashers, do anything to signal to drivers that you are having an emergency. Hopefully someone will report your erratic behavior to local police.

 10. Stay alert. If drinking coffee helps, then keep a thermos hot and ready. Be careful of the necessary bathroom trips this could cause. Frequently roll down windows. A blast of fresh air helps keep you awake and alert. If you get too tired, though, it's safest to stop for the night than to keep driving.

 11. If you are bumped in traffic, be suspicious of the accident. Look for a place where others are present before rolling down your window or unlocking car doors.

 12. If ever confronted by a carjacker, give up keys or money without resistance.

 13. If you are carjacked and forced to drive, consider crashing your car  near a busy intersection where bystanders could come to your aid and summon the police.


If the road trip involves hundreds of miles, an overnight stay becomes a necessity. Ask for a room that requires accessing through the lobby, rather than one with outside access.

Use all security locks and place a chair in front of the door, lodging the back under the doorknob. Never open the door to anyone you don't know, including hotel employees. Advise room service attendants to leave trays just outside the door. Call the front desk to confirm the dispatching of maintenance workers before opening the door to employees stating an intent to fix something.

Carrying Cash

Obviously some cash will be necessary on a lengthy road trip for food and incidentals.

Cash, however, is a risky commodity, in that once it's lost or stolen, replacement is virtually impossible. With all the ATM's available across the country today, it's best to carry minimum cash and use an ATM when necessary to replenish. Just remember to stop at reputable banks or agencies that have ATMs and be sure no one is looking over your shoulder when you enter your PIN number.


Make sure the vehicle used for such a road trip is tuned up and in good working condition. This helps to prevent breakdowns and unnecessary stops.

A cell phone is an excellent investment for a trip of this nature, and 911 can be dialed anywhere at any time.