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Basic Vehicle Safety

Basic Vehicle Safety

Growing up, my dad passed along his love for cars to me. For my 16th birthday, he bought me my first car. A 1:18 scale diecast model of a ’57 Corvette Stingray (very funny dad).

Every Christmas since then, my gift from him is the duPont REGISTRY Holiday Edition of Fine Cars. When I was younger, I would study it and try to decide which car I wanted to buy. The downside to this daydreaming was I thought a $50k car was cheap. Spoiler alert, it’s not.

My childhood was also before kids had electronic distractions. In order to keep my siblings and I from fighting in the back seat, he would have us play “guess the make and model” of the cars around us. This game was especially tricky at night when all you could see for clues were headlights or taillights.

All of this fueled (pun intended) my love for cars. I wanted to know everything about them. How to check fluid levels, change the oil or a flat tire. How to control my actual first car, an ’80 Caprice Classic with rear-wheel drive, on icy roads. I love roadtrips and have done quite a few 12-14-hour drives. When an opportunity to ride 180 mph around the Charlotte Speedway with the Richard Petty Driving Experience presented itself, I was all in.

This passion for vehicles made me comfortable in and around all vehicles. That confidence helped thwart quite a few service technicians who were eager to tell me all the things that needed fixing on my vehicle, even though I was only in for an oil change.

My company, The Diamond Arrow Group, is all about helping women gain confidence to live life on their own terms. Helping women learn and understand how their vehicles play a role in their personal safety is an important piece of the puzzle. According to AAA’s American Driving Survey, 2014-2017:

“On average, drivers spent 51 minutes driving approximately 31.5 miles each day, making an average of 2.2 driving trips. Nationwide, drivers made 183 billion trips, driving 2.6 trillion miles, in 2016 and 2017. In 2016-2017, all driving metrics increased when comparing statistics with the previous period measured, 2014-2015.”

Americans have increased the average minutes spent driving per day by 6.3% since 2014-2015! Incorporating vehicle safety with our personal safety skills is important. Here are 5 key things to start practicing today.

  • Verify that pushing the unlock button on your key fob once, only unlocks the driver’s door.
    • If your key fob is not set up this way, grab the owner’s manual and change it or ask your trusted service technician to do it for you.
  • Every time you get in a vehicle, make sure all the mirrors are adjusted for the best sight lines with you in the driver’s seat.
  • Once you and any passengers are inside the vehicle, lock the doors.
    • I can’t stress this enough. Any time you are in your vehicle, make sure the doors are locked!
  • Before putting the vehicle in drive, make any adjustments to the radio, plug your phone into the charger, connect to bluetooth, start any driving directions, choose your heat or cooling settings, and buckle up.
  • Pay attention while driving.
    • Converting miles per hour to miles per feet, if you are going 60mph and take your eyes off the road for 3 seconds, you drove 270 feet blind. That’s almost the length of the playing field in football!
    • In 2018 there were 2,841 people killed and an estimated additional 400,000 people injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. (NHTSA Summary of Statistical Findings, April 2020)

These are simple daily habits you can start practicing today. After a short period of time, they will become automatic and you won’t have to consciously think about doing them, you just will. As with all changes you make to improve your life, even the smallest things done repeatedly with intention, can have a huge impact.

For more tips on how to incorporate vehicle safety with your personal safety, make sure to get on the DAG VIP list by signing up here.

Did The Creepy Dude Become a Hood Ornament or Not?

Did The Creepy Dude Become a Hood Ornament or Not?

Last week, my dear friend Kelly Radi was the featured author during Ladies Night // Holiday Style at Copper Pony. I hadn’t stopped by to see this store that everyone raves about, I needed a hostess gift, and I wanted to show support for Kelly’s latest book, Wonder-Full. I thought this would be the perfect excuse to get out of the house by myself and spend time smelling yummy candles and laughing at sarcastic home décor.

My original plan was to be there at the beginning of the event (5pm) and get out before it got too crowded. Unfortunately, my husband had to stay at work longer that day, so I didn’t get out the door until 6:30pm. The reason this little nugget of info is important, is it changes who you are likely to encounter walking down the street.

The event was in full swing at the store, which is located in our downtown area. Parking is available on the streets and there are parking ramps and large lots within walking distance. I drove around until I found street parking that was in front of a well-lit building and around the corner from the store. I grabbed my J5 flashlight, kept it in my right hand, and stuck my hand in my jacket pocket. My handbag went over my shoulder and I walked without incident to the store.

The store is so cute!! I saw lots of people I knew, I wondered around and collected a lot more than one hostess gift, and as I was about to leave, a friend I hadn’t seen in awhile walked in. We lamented about the busyness of the season and how we needed to get together to catch up. She works downtown and her car was parked in one of the lots further away. I offered to drive her to her car and wait while it warmed up so we could chat.

Since she had just gotten there and needed to pick up a gift, I said I would get my vehicle, and drive around and pick her up when she was finished. I went back to my truck and then pulled out of my spot to find a spot closer to the store front. I ended up doing a couple of laps around the block before I spotted an opening near the front of a restaurant.

It was a spot you would drive into instead of needing to parallel park. As I pulled in, my headlights showed an older man, probably in his 60’s or 70’s, squatted down smoking a cigarette. He was tucked in a corner by the entrance to a business that was closed for the night.

Pause

(Let’s hit pause to break down the moving parts. Our intuition processes information faster than we can consciously analyze so it’s important to slow it down after the fact to understand key signals.)

 -It’s not unusual to see someone smoking outside an establishment, tucked into a building to get out of the wind.

-Observing his appearance and the fact that he was squatting or sitting down on the sidewalk, I guessed that he could be one of our homeless population.

-Whenever I put my truck in park, all the doors automatically unlock. I always re-lock the doors out of habit for safety. I locked my doors instinctively in that moment.

-I turned off my headlights so they wouldn’t be shining in his eyes.

Resume

I texted my friend to let her know where I was parked and asked her to text me when she was walking out the door.

In the short time it took me to send the text, the man had stood up, and was now standing at the front of my truck on the sidewalk.

Pause

-I wasn’t alarmed by him standing there but I did raise my awareness. I didn’t see a backpack on his shoulders, and he didn’t have any items under his arms.

-I couldn’t see his hands because they were below my field of vision over my hood.

-He didn’t have an expression on his face, it was simply blank.

Resume

I didn’t want to grab my phone to text my friend because I didn’t want to be distracted. I did look at him again to make sure he knew I noticed him.

Pause

-The different options for action started going through my head. Do I wave him along? Do I turn my headlights back on and flash them, hoping he’ll get the hint and walk away? Do I crack my window enough to tell him to please get away from the front of my truck? Or do I back out of my perfect parking spot and drive away?

Resume

My mental processing probably took 10 seconds, but having the man STILL standing there, staring at me, made it feel like a lot longer. By this time, I was uncomfortable because he had no reason to be standing there and had not changed his facial expression or tried saying anything to me.

I decided to go with the last option.

I turned my headlights back on, put my truck in reverse, and backed out of the spot.

As I started to drive away, I looked towards him. He had already turned and was walking into the restaurant. I muttered “jerk” and drove away. If he was a patron of the restaurant who had simply stepped outside to smoke, why did he have to stand at the front of my truck staring at me? Why didn’t he just walk back into the restaurant when he finished his smoke?

Honestly, I think I was more upset about losing my parking spot at that moment.

Fast forward to the end of the night when I recounted this experience to my husband. If you’re new to following The Diamond Arrow Group, my husband works in the Police Department for our city. This gives context to our conversation.

Here are the highlights.

Husband: Why didn’t you lay on your horn and tell him to get out of there?

Me: He wasn’t doing anything threatening, I didn’t want to draw unnecessary attention to myself, and it was easy enough to drive away.

As women, we don’t want to cause a scene every time a creeper does something that makes us uncomfortable. We already keep moments when we get that “weird feeling” to ourselves because we hear “you’re over-reacting” or “don’t be judgmental”. Plus, we’ve all been told “don’t cry wolf because when something DOES happen, no one will respond”.

Now let’s be clear, I’m not saying women are “crying wolf” when they talk about something that happened to them. I’m bringing this up because in our minds, we have to save those imaginary please believe me cards for the time when something really major happens.

The problem with that mentality is, who decides what’s trivial and what’s major?

Husband: I think I know who you’re talking about. Did you snap a picture of him?

Me: No, that thought didn’t cross my mind.

When we were on this topic, I questioned myself too. Why DIDN’T I take a picture of him? My husband said I could pretend I was FaceTiming with someone and take a picture without the guy even knowing.

As I mentally pictured raising my phone and pretending to take a picture, I wondered if that would have caused him to get angry. Going back to my earlier point, women don’t want to cause a scene. I don’t think I could be sly enough to get a picture without him knowing what I was doing.

Husband: If you saw him again, would you recognize him?

Me: I’m pretty sure I would.

This part of the conversation went into the reporting to law enforcement discussion. My husband WANTS women to report behaviors like this. The reason is because he can let other officers know and be watching for the behavior. What if this guy does this to women all the time? What if he’s done worse?

IMPORTANT NOTE: Everyone should have the non-emergency number for their local law enforcement agency saved in their phone. If you don’t, open a browser window right now and search to find it.

Husband: Did you say anything to him at all?

Me: Nope, I didn’t want to give an opening to conversation and have him get close to my window.

Again, I would rather avoid elevating the situation. I had no desire to start a conversation. I simply wanted to be left alone in my nice parking spot.

Our discussion was interesting. I kept saying, “if I wasn’t doing work on situational awareness and wasn’t married to a cop, I probably wouldn’t even be having this conversation.”

This was a non-event in my mind. For others, it might have really bugged them, and they would’ve done something different. Maybe they would’ve honked the horn. Maybe they would’ve motioned for the guy to move along. Maybe they would’ve stayed in the parking spot and not cared about the guy standing there.

As long as you do whatever you feel comfortable doing to stay safe, that’s all that matters. The important part is to do something. Consider your options, decide on one that works for you, and then do it.

I’ve studied all things relating to situational awareness and self-defense for years, and I’m still learning. I hear from so many of you “nothing happened but…I got this weird vibe”. It’s very real. Your senses are constantly taking in information. Your subconscious is always processing that information, deciding what message to send to your consciousness. Your intuition is taking that message and delivering it in physical ways (chills up your spine, nagging thoughts, knots in your stomach). Pay attention and never discount your intuition.

“Intuition is always right in at least two important ways;

It is always in response to something. It always has your best interest at heart”

Gavin De Becker

That Time of Year

That Time of Year

During the Holiday season, I start to feel like I’ve lost my marbles. The to-do list grows a million miles long. It seems we always need to be somewhere, by a certain time, with a certain food item…oh, and what are we going to do with the dog?

If I don’t take the time to think through what needs to happen and by when, it sucks for everyone. It can be exhausting and panic inducing.

You know the saying…

I look out at least a week in advance, to plan what needs to get done. I figure out my daily tasks, so I can be home when the kids get off the bus. As the other saying goes, “if you want something done, ask a busy person”.

Because I have a clear picture in my head of what I need to do and by when, last-minute surprises don’t phase me. Can I bring dessert instead of a side dish? Sure! I’ll pick up Christine’s cheesecake. (This is a real thing and yes, her cheesecakes are the BEST)

If I DON’T have a plan in place, those last-minute surprises catch me off guard.

If I’m scrambling during the day to get things done and the phone rings, I send it straight to voicemail (sorry-no time to talk!). Inevitably, I forget to listen to the message until much later.

What?!? Now I need to bring dessert?! Ugh! Guess I’m making another trip into town tomorrow.

By not having a plan for the day, taking time to run to the store only adds stress. Great, now I have MORE on my to-do list.

Instead of being relaxed and enjoying the season, I’ve turned in to the crazy lady driving down the road.  I’m stressed and distracted, not present and aware of my surroundings.

Sound familiar? Or am I the only crazy lady? 

What does this have to do with situational awareness?

Let’s switch the words around a little bit.

If I don’t take the time to think through what needs to happen and by when, it sucks for everyone. It can be exhausting and panic inducing.

If I don’t take the time to think about what I would do if I was attacked, I won’t be able to protect myself and loved ones. The feeling of helplessness is exhausting and panic inducing.

I look out at least a week in advance, to plan what needs to get done. I figure out my daily tasks, so I can be home when the kids get off the bus.

When I read a story about a woman being attacked, I take a moment to imagine the situation happening to me. What would I do? How would I fight back? What would I do if he had a weapon? What if I had my kids with me?

Because I have a clear picture in my head of what I need to do and by when, last-minute surprises don’t phase me.

Because I’ve thought about what I would do in an attack, I’m confident I won’t freeze. I know I will do x, y, z and fight back with everything I’ve got.

Mental preparedness not only helps manage stress in daily life, it helps you have confidence in your personal safety skills.

The Diamond Arrow Group has a simple mission, to teach women situational awareness & self-defense using their natural skills. Why? Because you should have the confidence to live life on your own terms. Being mentally prepared with a plan to fight back against an attacker is key to building your confidence.

Don’t let the craziness of the Holidays overwelm you. Don’t want walk around with tunnel vision because you’re stressed about your to-do list. Take some time tonight to make a plan for the week. What do you need to get done, in the next few days, so you can be present and enjoy the moments with those you love?

“Wherever you are, be all there.”

-Jim Elliot