How not to get car-jacked

Here is a startling story that has me feeling jumpy. On last night’s news there was a report about a man who left Berea, Ohio for Cleveland Friday night to visit a sick relative and never made it. Instead, he left a note at a highway rest stop off I-71 near the exit that goes to Wooster. The note, found at 10 am by a rest stop cleaner, said that he was car jacked, was in trouble, and to please let his wife know.

Why this caught my attention, more than other car jack stories, is that:

  • #1. My husband is from Berea, Ohio and just two weeks ago we drove from Berea to Cleveland. I know the route well. Berea is just minutes from Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.
  • #2. We have stopped at the rest stop mentioned in the report.
  • #3. Just over a month ago, I interviewed a man who is an expert in self defense for a magazine article. He gave me tips on how to avoid a car jacking, among other things.

One of the main tips he told me that I had not heard of before is that when you are stopped at an intersection, you should be able to see the entire back tires of the car in front of you. This will leave you enough room so that if someone is trying to get in your car, you can pull out and get away. If you’re too close to the car in front of you, you’re stuck.

Here’s a list of other tips to keep in mind to ensure that when you head out in your car–or a rental you’re traveling safely. Personally, I’m not one of those people who worry a lot. I tend to see the world as a safe place, but when stories come up about places I’ve traveled to my mind puts me there. This time I remembered the create a gap tip and wanted to pass it on.

Turn-lane help from state to state

Map Quest can be handy when figuring out how to get from one place to another. I’ve used it to get from Ohio to Montana through Minnesota, for example. Sometimes though, like if you’re going to an out of the way place you’d better look at a conventional map. The folks who run the Hope Springs Institute in near Pebbles, OH have told me not to rely on the Map Quest map to find them and so has somebody who lives west of Dayton, OH in a place that doesn’t have a post office box.

Map Quest also doesn’t cover all the road navigating possibilities. The New York Times recently had a nifty article that runs through the possibilities. Consider the “jughandle turn” in New Jersey or the “Michigan left.” And there are the low water crossings in Texas and Kentucky and the frontage roads. Texas has them, and from experience, I can tell you that so does New Mexico.

Ohio has turn lanes that run down the center of busy roads. They basically allow you to pull into the middle of lanes going either way so you can make your turn without stopping the flow of traffic–nerve-wracking for people hailing from elsewhere.

The jughandle is basically the same concept as the center lanes in Ohio but, instead of putting you in the center of a road where traffic careens by on either side, it’s a road that goes off the right side of the road then loops around to the left. The Michigan left is a turn lane that basically allows you to make a U-turn.

The New York Times article included a University of Maryland website, Unconventional Arterial Intersection Design, that explains the various regional turns. It includes an animated feature. Pretty cool.