The In's & Out's of Maintaining Situational Awareness in a Vehicle - ITS Tactical
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The In’s & Out’s of Maintaining Situational Awareness in a Vehicle

By Jeff Gonzales

ITS Visor Marker Panel

A large majority of us spend a lot of time in our vehicles. I recently spent a lot more time than I wanted to sitting in Los Angeles traffic attending this year’s Crossfit Games and it got me thinking about this article.

Road Rage

The funny thing about traffic is that folks are always trying to gain an inch by changing lanes and crawling up your rear. I’m not used to that type of behavior, nor would I expect to be on a daily basis. But, I did start thinking of how I’d deal with things from a tactical point of view in that situation and how best to defend myself from an attack while sitting in a parked vehicle, exiting/entering a parked vehicle and upon provocation.

Driving Tips

The first thing I tell people when it comes to driving is to leave early. I know it sucks, but it truly puts you in a different mindset. If you plan to leave a little bit early, you’ll find yourself making better decisions when it comes to driving. You won’t feel “rushed” to try and make that red light, change lanes without checking your blind spot, or merging into traffic recklessly because you’re in a hurry. How much earlier will depend on you, but 10 minutes seems to be the sweet spot. It truly is the best thing you can do to “arrive alive.”

Keep Your Head on a Swivel

I’ve said it before, but when it comes to driving, you really do need a high level of situational awareness. Things are coming at you fast, literally; you don’t have much time to process things. Keep these simple concepts in mind the next time you’re behind the wheel:

  • Never stop driving the vehicle.
  • Look for drivable terrain.
  • Look where you want the vehicle to go.

With all that being said, let’s talk about what you might want to consider for vehicle defense.

Know Your Vehicle

The first thing, which should go without saying, is to lock your doors the moment you get into your vehicle. Try to make that as much of habit as putting on your seatbelt. Speaking of seat belts, before you buckle up, look around you and make sure it’s safe to do so. You’re somewhat vulnerable in a parked vehicle and dismounting should be an option, but it’s difficult to do when you’re buckled up for safety. Also, be mindful of automatic vehicle locks that unlock the doors when you put the vehicle in park. I’m not a fan of these at all, simply because it could compromise the “seal” of your vehicle. Most of these can be disabled and if you don’t know how, take it to the dealership and ask them to do it for you.

Improvised Weapons

Vehicle Improvised Weapons?

You should keep improvised weapons at the ready for those close quarters fights when you can’t or don’t have time to get to your firearm. Remember, your firearm will be difficult to access in a seated position and especially when you’re buckled up. For more on concealment options, check out this blog post. These improvised weapons can vary and I’m sure if you use your imagination you can come up with plenty of ideas. They shouldn’t be your final choice but think of them as a transition to a better weapon system. Also, think of being able to employ them from confined spaces such as the interior of your vehicle.

Think Twice Before you Bail

Lastly is the decision to dismount your vehicle. We’ve all seen some examples of road rage that ended bad for the good guy. If the vehicle followed you for several miles, or even blocks, I highly suggest you stop at a police station or other public location. If your vehicle is mobile, it’s your best defense and weapon. If you’re in fear for your life, do what you have to do to get off the “X”. If you decide to exit the vehicle, at least have a plan. That plan should include not discussing the issue in traffic. Take it to the side of the road. Always think of an escape and make sure to lock the doors before you dismount the vehicle. If you do dismount, consider that you might not be able to get back to it and to make sure you have your “stuff” with you. At the very least, have a cell phone to call for help if you have to high tail it out there.

These are just some simple ideas to think about when you spend time in or around a vehicle. When in doubt, don’t stop; keep the vehicle moving.

Editor-in-Chief’s Note: Jeff Gonzales was a decorated and respected US Navy SEAL, serving as an operator and trainer who participated in numerous combat operations throughout the world. He now uses his modern warfare expertise as President of Trident Concepts, LLC., a battle proven company specializing in weapons, tactics and techniques to meet the evolving threat. Bringing the same high-intensity mindset, operational success and lessons learned from NSW to their training programs, TRICON has been recognized as an industry leader by various federal, state and local units. Organizations interested in training with TRICON can call 928-925-7038 or visit for more information.

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