Estimated reading time: 13 minutes
Even without an SHTF scenario, our roads are teeming with drivers looking for potential targets. From criminals to assailants, the reasons you may have for evading and avoiding someone while in your vehicle are innumerable.
We use our vehicles for a vast percentage of our transportation needs, and the chances of us being attacked while in a vehicle in dangerous zones are very high. In order to travel safely in your vehicle while the threat of attack or ambush looms, you must learn the basics of evasive driving.
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A vehicle is a weapon; it kills thousands of people every year and can be wielded effectively by anyone from an angry teenager to a maniacal terrorist with little effort. Using it defensively requires much more effort and patience.
Techniques for avoiding pursuit and damage on the road are not as straightforward or as simple as they may seem. Take the time to practice and never drive beyond your abilities. Driving recklessly is as likely to harm yourself as it is others.
Disclaimer: The tactics methods we talk about in this post are unlawful and dangerous in many cases. This article is not an endorsement of the methods, nor should it be regarded as a training source. Only conduct the techniques in this article under the supervision of trained professionals and always obey the rules of the road.
- If You are Being Followed or Have a Tail
- Evasion Tactics During a Chase
- The J-turn: A Basic Evasive Turning Technique
- Destructive Techniques: Ramming, Crashing and Avoiding Them
Choosing the Right Vehicle
Different vehicles have very different capabilities. This may seem like common sense, but it is worth saying. Having the proper vehicle goes beyond make and model, however.
The appropriate vehicle is also reliable and well taken care of. You don’t have to worry about it failing you at an inopportune moment. Clean the windows, have a full tank of gas, ensure the fluids are good to go, as well as the brakes, tires, etc.
The best vehicles for escaping a road incident or attack will be a midsize or large sedan that is low to the ground. These vehicles are the best compromise between mass, handling, durability, and maneuverability. Lighter and faster vehicles can’t handle getting bumped well, while vehicles with a higher center of gravity can roll during sharp turns and maneuvers.
The environment will ultimately dictate the optimal vehicle. Muddy backroads will have a different “best” vehicle versus the highway versus salt flats and everything in between.
- Your vehicle should have an “anti-roll bar” between the front axles.
- You want a powerful engine in case you have to push other vehicles.
- An automatic transmission is recommended. A manual requires much more practice to pull off certain maneuvers correctly, and clutch cables can snap.
You must ensure you are well-versed and comfortable in your vehicle. Like any weapon or tool you plan to use, it must feel like an extension of your body. Know how wide it is, how it turns, and feel the road through it.
This is where you can get a little James Bond with it. The following are some vehicle modifications suggested by the sources we used for the post:
- Heavy-duty radiator hose
- High-performance tires
- Large fuel cell
- Improved lights
- Stainless steel brake lines
- Roll cage
- Bulletproofing (Kevlar door panels, bulletproof windows, etc.)
- Racing harnesses
- Switch activated fire-extinguishing system.
These are some other modifications or considerations regarding your vehicle.
- Have jumper cables, a spare tire, and a jack.
- Consider a replacement belt, hose repair kit, extra oil, water, and windshield fluid.
- First aid kit, flares, fire extinguisher, flashlight, blanket, extra food, potable water.
- Always have a spare key ready. You don’t want to have to look for it or go back to the residence when you need to get moving.
- Have a gas cap that locks to avoid easy tampering or fuel theft.
- Seatbelt cutter and glass breaking tool ready and within reach.
Basic Driving Awareness and Routines
You should already be applying the following tips in your general driving practices. Awareness of your surroundings are key to safety on the road whether or not the other drivers intend to harm you.
- Have a proactive mindset. Constantly scan the road for possible hazards.
- Don’t have a set routine. Vary routes and times.
- Look for people, vehicles, or activities out of the ordinary.
- Know the road you are on and what lies around it.
If a threat occurs, assess it using the five W’s:
- Who is attacking?
- Who is the victim?
- What is the attack form (gun, IED, blocking vehicle, etc.)
- Where are the attacks coming from
- When is the attack (time of day, day of the month)
Random attacks like those from drunken or angered drivers, those that occur in everyday life, are generally easy to see coming. Hidden ambushes from motivated individuals can be much harder to spot. Be ready and aware.
Evasive Driving Techniques and Philosophies
This is only a small example of a vast skill set. If you think of it like learning a martial art, this is the stuff you’d learn in the first month or so. It takes decades to get a black belt. However, these basic skills we are providing can be incredibly effective when properly employed (reminder, please see disclaimer).
If You are Being Followed or Have a Tail
For celebrities and politicians, being followed is a constant concern. For the everyday person, less so. But if you are well-stocked when the SHTF, you can expect your profile to rise. Sometimes you cut somebody off in traffic, use an ATM, or have the wrong bumper sticker, and they are following you home to get revenge (like in this story, or this one).
Which brings us to our first and most important point about being followed: Don’t lead them to your home or stockpiles. Don’t assume your home is where the tail began (they may only have an idea of where your neighborhood is). Don’t lead them to those you love.
Often a tail is simply a case of childish harassment, or it may be a legitimate government official. Attempt to identify the level of threat and act accordingly.
Often driving to a well lit or public area can dissuade the majority of petty tails. Never leave your vehicle or box yourself in when traveling to these areas. Lean on the horn and attempt to signal help that way.
If you believe you are being tailed, take the following actions:
- Ensure your windows and doors are locked.
- Check your gas gauge.
- Do not go home.
- Take note of the make/model and license plate of the tailing vehicle. Try not to give your position away.
To try and shake the tail:
- Circle the block repeatedly (can also help to identify a tail).
- Pull into a parking lot and immediately exit it from the other direction.
- Perform a legal U-turn or two.
- Pull over and wait for a reaction. (Be ready to move, don’t turn off the vehicle.)
Use legal maneuvers and speed when possible. Don’t make it known you are aware of the tail unless necessary. Giving away that you are aware may cause them to escalate tactics. Be prepared.
Evasion Tactics During a Chase
Chases can begin in many ways. If a tail knows you are aware of them and they don’t call off the tail, you can consider it a chase. The difference between a tail and a chase is simply that the pursuer knows you are aware of them—it is a cliche that they must occur at high speed (more on that in a second).
If you can’t call for help or reasonably get to a safe area without endangering your location or others at a secure location, then you must lose your pursuers on the road.
As we stated before, a “high-speed” chase is a bit of a cliche. You will not want to go above 60 mph unless necessary or on a highway. If you can’t navigate turns or avoid obstacles, you are only endangering yourself further. Drive to you and your vehicle’s realistic capabilities.
A blowout at top speeds will end your chase (and life) pretty dramatically. Be cautious of the damage and strain you are putting on your tires:
- At very high-speeds, potholes and small obstructions can take your tire out.
- Large bumps can also slam your tire into the wheel well.
- Skidding due to evasive maneuvers will wear away at the tire.
- Most standard tires can only handle high speeds (above 110 mph or so, check the speed rating) for a limited amount of time before heat-caused deforming can occur.
Methods for losing your pursuer without engaging in breakneck speeding:
- Using quick and unexpected turns.
Either through maneuvers or by using the natural flow of traffic to cut off pursuit and send them astray. Suddenly take a side street and don’t allow them time to react. If your pursuer is coming on to you quickly in another lane, use a quick stop and turn down a road away from them.
- Finding a place to hide.
If traffic or a sudden change of direction allows you to get out of eyesight for a bit, you may be able to sneak into an alley or behind a house. Don’t get out of a vehicle, and don’t get yourself trapped in an enclosed area looking for a hiding spot. Make sure the terrain you are on is not proving tracks that give away your position.
- Make further pursuit too difficult.
If your vehicle can handle terrain the pursuit vehicle can not, you may need to jump a median or cross a lawn. Do so at a safe distance so you don’t damage your tires. Hedges and small fences may be passable by some vehicles but not others.
- If you have a lower center of gravity than the pursuit vehicle, you can gain distance by accelerating into the turns and taking more sharp turns.
- If you have to go the wrong way on a one-way street or highway, turn on your hazards and stay on the shoulder.
Dealing with Firearms
If you think the vehicle chasing you has a firearm, you must not allow them to get alongside you and must maneuver to cut them off. Even small arms can be effective at 300 meters so get as much distance as possible (this is when going fast is allowed).
The J-turn: A Basic Evasive Turning Technique
This is an example of one of the most effective and basic evasion techniques, a reverse 180. Sometimes also called a “J-Turn”.
To do this technique, come to a complete stop before reversing at roughly 30 mph. Once the correct speed is reached you:
- Crank the wheel to the left and apply the brakes.
- Put the vehicle into gear (drive) at the close of the spin.
- Straighten the wheel at the 180-degree mark.
- Slam the accelerator.
A Bootlegger’s Turn is similar to this maneuver but is done while still traveling forward.
Practice this technique as various vehicles react very differently to this maneuver. Conducting this maneuver repeatedly will likely damage your vehicle in some way, so judge how to practice and when to use this maneuver for yourself.
Destructive Techniques: Ramming, Crashing and Avoiding Them
Sometimes contact between vehicles is invertible. Either they will try to run you off the road or you will need to get past a blocking vehicle. Practicing this can be hard without participating in a destruction derby.
Sideswiping is often just as dangerous to the vehicle coming in as to the one being swiped. If your goal is to keep moving, try and avoid any side contact. The wrong angle can send you spinning out of control.
Trained pursuers will often try and use the Pursuit Intervention Technique or PIT to stop a fleeing vehicle. This involves touching your car to the back quarter panel of the vehicle you want to stop, then accelerating at an angle into them.
To counter this technique, you must attempt to drop your speed below 30 mph where it is very hard to spin a vehicle. Real-life example of a police PIT stop.
Road Hazards, Barriers, and Ramming
Very often, an ambush will involve blocker vehicles. This occurs frequently in the third world; someone will pretend to have a broken down car to get you to stop. Sometimes robbers or assassins will purposely get in small fender benders in order to get you to stop.
Very often, you must use your vehicle as a weapon or battering ram in order to effectively escape. Doing so incorrectly can lead to the vehicle being disabled and you being killed (either through the crash or by your pursuers).
Ramming a roadblock should only be done as a last resort as even soft debris can damage your vehicle or windshield and impair your vision or maneuverability. You also don’t know exactly how reinforced a roadblock may be.
If ramming through a vehicle that is making up roadblock aim so that your frame rail hits their wheel. Try and do so at around 30mph and maintain this speed through the maneuver until you accelerate through post-contact.
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Sources Used in This Post:
- Basic Evasive Driving Techniques by the Overseas Security and Advisory Council (OSAC) Research & Information Support Center
- Getaway Driving Techniques for Escape and Evasion by George Eriksen
- AARTIC Security Powerpoint Presentation
- Emergency Vehicle Operations Instruction Manual
- Team O’Neil Tactical Mobility Training
- Pursuit Intervention Technique (PIT) Training Video