Taking a road trip and commuting daily are only two of the reasons why you might want to rethink your preparations in your vehicle. For many Americans, a large portion of their day is spent travelling to the various tasks in their schedule, including work. For many off-the-grid practitioners, there are occasional and even frequent trips to consider, regardless of the work situation. Trips to the granary or livery, large shopping trips, preparatory planning for long winters, picking up firewood, etc., can all be included on this list and offer long trips and a lot of exposure to road hazards and other assorted risks.
Much of the writing I contribute has either an overt or a background presence of risk management, and this article will be no exception. Drivers, especially those in rural settings or who perform long haul excursions, are at a considerable amount of risk.
Road hazards could include everything from a fallen tree in the road, other drivers driving irresponsibly, and even fluke accidents, and road hazards are but one specific risk. Other more esoteric or overlooked risks could include self-defense situations, road rage, thieves, engine or other assorted mechanical problems, weather concerns, personal health risks including allergic reactions, other stranded drivers and their assorted concerns, sleep deprivation, and other driver-specific hazards. Specific situations would certainly include car jacking, situations already in progress like unaffiliated high-speed chases, hostage situations or terrorist threats, as well as roadside thieves or those who could be stalking you or members of your family.
Let’s face it: cars are mechanical devices which rely on chemical and electrical processes to get individuals from point A to point B and can be subject to wear and tear, poor planning, and fluke failure. These systems are always at risk for failure, and may or may not offer foreknowledge of such breakdown.
Weather in many areas of the country can turn on a dime, and plenty of horror stories exist involving frozen bodies, heat stroke victims, extreme dehydration, or other exposure in the event of an unexpected storm or weather event “trapping” a driver.
This article is specifically geared towards North American drivers as a result of many other countries/regions not utilizing private transportation nearly as much as North Americans. A precursory review of local laws and a reassessment of specific risks however, could yield some excellent information for those outside of the U.S. or for those traveling abroad with personal vehicle transportation. Always prepare ahead of time if you will be traveling outside the country.
Basic safety and understanding of the laws in your area and those you are expecting to come in contact with can have a dramatic impact on avoiding concerns ranging from moving violations (tickets) to potentially deadly car accidents and/or self-defense situations. If you know what to expect and what is illegal, you are likely not to have too many concerns for breaking the law, even when road conditions or situations change. Similarly, if traveling with concealed weapons, you may be at exponentially more risk by carrying them without having properly researched carry law reciprocity for your travel areas than you will by potential attackers or assailants for which you brought the weapon in the first place. Other items can serve you better in many cases than a gun in vehicles, even if you are well trained and have excellent composure. Keen situational awareness for situations when you are at a higher risk for attack while driving or exiting a vehicle can inevitably prepare you for encounters better than the best carry weapon.
Remember that whatever item you choose, you should have a means for defending yourself in your vehicle. In recent years there has been a higher instance of assault, rape, murder, kidnapping, and aggression than ever before. It stands to reason with the number of drivers increasing each day that the instance and potential for danger also increases in the parallel. Tools and mindset are necessary to avoid excessive risks. Many of us, myself included, tend to believe that it is our God-given right to defend what we have and our personal safety. What many of us don’t realize is that in many situations, the other guy will be the one more capable, because they likely have nothing to lose comparatively, and therefore are willing to violate your personal beliefs far faster than you will. The judgment for someone willing to behave inappropriately is far murkier than for you, a person who has something to lose and things or people you care for. Often times it makes more sense to avoid situations than to defend our rights actively. It may sound somewhat cowardly, but you can only die once: some situations just aren’t worth proving a point about when you have an irrational opponent. Exercise judgment when dealing with irrational people or in life-threatening personal encounters, and once you have decided on your plan of action, be quick and deliberate with it.
“Good Samaritans” are a welcome relief in unexpected situations. But from both sides of the situation, it can be a dangerous encounter. I personally try to help in every situation where it seems legitimately safe or where I believe I hold an upper hand and see another in need. It isn’t my personal mission to convince you to spend your hard-earned resources, time, or attention on others who did not prepare or who are in uncomfortable situations: it is your personal choice. That said, I have been the recipient (long before becoming a virtually self-sufficient traveler) of such help, and I have also had over fifty opportunities to provide help to those in need, including the mundane, as well as in major disasters. If you do plan on being a “Good Samaritan,” you should plan properly for such actions.
Knowing the weather and local risks that you face as a driver will help you to prepare with both physical tools and psychological tools. Rain, sleet, and snow will all be important considerations, but high wind and high heat can often be overlooked as potential dangers. Do you have the proper clothing, gear, vehicle components, and operating items to ensure low risk?
Removing a log from the road may not be prudent, or even possible in many cases, but do you have the appropriate communication tools, road hazard marking equipment, and thought processes to ensure that a bad situation thrust upon you does not turn to a worst situation? Is that driver a mile behind you guaranteed to see the same warnings signs as you did to avoid disaster, or should you compel them to comply with a safer plan? Having the proper tools and knowing when to use them and when to act in unexpected situations can be invaluable when on the road.
Your own personal health should always be the subject of scrutiny when traveling. Allergic reactions, known problems concerning major organs, and medical tendencies should all be a factor in planning for road travel. A medical event can cripple your capabilities and even kill you in a matter of seconds or minutes. It is hands down the most important thing to consider. There is a reason that airlines tell you to put your mask on first in the event of sudden cabin pressure loss: if you cannot think and act clearly and decisively, you will not be of any help to any other passengers and may require more resources than are available.
Finally, you as the driver or those you trust to drive you places are subject to risk from personal habits or actions. Sleep deprivation, mood or perception-altering substances, and personal reaction times can all be potentially dangerous catalysts while in transit.
©2012 Off the Grid News