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How to Drive 450,000 Crime-Free Miles
Hi Savvy Traveler!
For the past four decades, I've made round trip coast-to-coast road trips nearly every year, often solo. My parents retired in North Carolina years ago while I lived in Northern California. Then I lived in Maine for several years while my best friends lived on the West Coast. So, for one reason or another, I'm on the road a lot. In fact, I've driven my current car, a `72 Volvo, some 450,000 accident-free miles, mostly highway, and I've never witnessed nor been a victim of crime while traveling.
Granted, there was the Texas patrolman who stopped me for speeding and took $40 cash he said he'd give to the judge, and then never got around to writing a ticket. Seems the rules are a little different in the South. When visiting Beaufort, North Carolina, a few years ago, I asked a cop for directions. He gave them to me, looked at the luggage in the back of my car and said, "Y'all got a gun in thar?" "Why no," I replied dumbfounded. "If'n I was you, I'd have me a gun," he said, nodding sagely.
I wasn't too sure about that. True, I'd been tailgated and cut off more than usual in the rural South. My funny foreign car and California plates seemed like a red flag to a bull in those parts, but I didn't expect anything worse. Still, this was a COP suggesting I carry a gun! I wasn't ready to do that and have never had an occasion to wish I had. There have been a couple of times I've made the motions of reaching under the seat for a pistol and smiling wickedly at toughs in another car who wanted me to pull over due to some imagined slight. Both times, they fled. And once I emptied my fire extinguisher out the window on a persistent and dangerous tailgater in Louisiana, but there have been no direct assaults. So far.
I think the main reason I've traveled crime-free is I don't look like an easy victim. I'm not all that big and mean looking. It's probably the way I carry myself, moving purposefully, especially in places that might be risky - though I try to avoid those areas. If eye contact and conversation with a potential attacker is unavoidable, I maintain good humor and a confident bearing. I always try to speak in a friendly way, being careful to convey no condescension or fear. I try to project the assumption we're all in on some joke together while staying lose, hands and feet ready to move in any direction.
I also keep my eyes open and look around a lot to avoid unpleasant surprises. And I trust my hunches. I never stop in rest areas unless they're fairly crowded, nor in remote gas stations with few people around. To nap in the car, I find a hospital parking lot, a police station to park beside, or a fancy hotel's parking lot, and I lock myself in.
My methods may not work for some - certainly not the numb and oblivious - but they should for most travelers.