The popularity and focus on “vehicle tactics” comes and goes among the civilian self-defense community. The interest in this niche topic escalates during times of civil unrest, such as we witnessed in the summer of 2020. Law enforcement and certain military groups have a much more focused and consistent interest in anything related to fighting around vehicles, obviously. However, there are certain basics that a civilian concealed carrier, or anyone interested in personal protection, should know related to vehicles. Most Americans spend a considerable amount of time in the automobile. For most, many hours of the week are actually spent behind the wheel. A good deal of crime and violence does, indeed, happen to people while in or around the vehicle. Therefore, an understanding of the best strategies for dealing with violence when in your car is in order.
As it pertains to civilians, the majority of “vehicle tactics” training is not very relevant. Law enforcement officers and military personnel face the very real possibility of being ambushed when in a car, so most such training involves skills and techniques related to shooting from the vehicle, or around the vehicle, etc. While anything is possible, it is exceedingly rare to find instances where citizens are ambushed while in their car in such a capacity that they are shot at while behind the wheel. The nature of criminal predation against citizens is most often that of robbery, and carjacking typically involves the criminal actor wanting the vehicle itself. Being forced out of the vehicle at gunpoint, or being taken at gunpoint when going to your vehicle in a parking lot, is the far more likely scenario faced by the citizen self-defender.
Similarly, even violence involving shooting is the small minority when it comes to violence around the vehicle. Carjackings are rare compared to heated arguments that come to blows during road rage incidents. Techniques for shooting through the windshield have little to do with most such threats. Other drivers becoming irate with anger over stupid disputes on the highway lead to aggressive behavior, most of which does not involve weapons. However, these incidents can easily escalate to armed conflict. Most often, many other tactics can and should be employed long before any shooting is necessary, such as de-escalation, if possible, or the use of less lethal tools against a less lethal threat.
So, what are the realistic vehicle tactics that are most applicable to the armed citizen?
Keep the Car Mobile
The foremost principle of safety while in your vehicle should be to stay mobile if at all possible. The most common form of violence found around vehicles for civilians are road rage and other conflicts. How can you best avoid being caught up in a road rage incident? Simple. Don’t stop, and don’t get out of the car. Keep driving. Call 911 from the vehicle while still on the road. If an irate driver signals to you to pull over, don’t. Keep driving.
Driving away should always be your first reaction to trouble if in your car, when possible. Keep this in mind even when stopped at lights or in traffic; leave room between yourself and the vehicle in front of you so that you can quickly maneuver out of your space and drive away if at all possible. If stopped in traffic when a road-rager gets out of their own vehicle to make a scene, don’t get out of your own car. If you can move the vehicle, that should be your first choice. Even in the event of a violent incident such as a carjacking, if you see the criminal actor approaching you, drive away if the car is mobile. And bear in mind that a violent threat that would legally justify lethal force can be run over if they leave you with no other choice. The vehicle should be used to avoid and evade, but can also be used as a force to escape if there is no other choice.
Stay in the Vehicle
Generally, in the face of violence, staying in the vehicle is the best option. The certain exception here is if the vehicle cannot move and you are actually being shot at. Then, getting out of the vehicle and taking cover is necessary. Again, though, that is of rare happenstance in the civilian world. The far more likely scenario is to be boxed in by standing traffic, unable to drive away, when a road rage fool tries to assault you. The vehicle, with doors locked and windows up, provides at least some protection. If a person is pounding on your car, don’t get out. By staying in the car, you clarify the legal premise that you wanted no part of the incident. If the assailant produces a firearm and points it at you, then such action constitutes deadly force and should be dealt with as such, and this is a circumstance where the ever-popular technique of shooting through the windshield might actually come into play.
Also, if the assailant smashes out a window with a blunt instrument or even approaches to do so, this is deadly force. Being in the car, unable to retreat, leaves you entirely at the mercy of someone who would smash out the window, and the thin side window of the car does little to shield you from such a threat.
So, when considering vehicle defense, focus on the most likely threats that a civilian self-defender would face. For the majority of such violence, staying in the vehicle and driving away proves far wiser than other tactics. It demands more consideration than vehicle-fighting skills, such as shooting out of windshields.