The Great American Road Trip – Safety and Security

Ah, welcome to summer. It’s hot. It’s muggy and downright gross sometimes. However, this is the period where the world all agrees we should try and travel and vacation with our families. People are hitting the beach, hitting theme parks, resorts, and more. It’s a time for a road trip, and road trips present their own level of danger and unique security challenges. With that in mind, let’s discuss some of those challenges and ways you can plan to avoid them or minimize your and your family’s exposure to those dangers.

Road Trip Security Challenges

The biggest security concern in regard to road trips most certainly comes from being out of your element. You are in a strange place, possibly at a strange time, and you don’t quite have the same footing you would if you were at home. This creates a bit of an unbeatable challenge, but not completely impossible to mitigate.

Outside of the generalized risk of being in a strange place at strange times, you also have to face the potential risk of getting lost and what chaos that can cause. Additionally, you might end up in shady places without even realizing it. A rest stop on the interstate can become shady as the sun sets, and these rest areas can be hot spots for crime. They attract large numbers of people, are often more or less in the middle of nowhere, and are rarely staffed.

Beyond rest stops, there are plenty of shady gas stations. When I took I-10 through Louisiana, I’m pretty sure every gas station was seemingly shady. Gas stations along the interstate can be plenty populous, or they can seemingly be the only sign of civilization for miles. The wrong rest stop can attract the mentally ill, criminal transients, and more.

Their location can also ensure there are no police near or quickly available. Your family road trip vehicle, out-of-state license plates, and the fact you’re on the interstate can easily signify you’re out of place and might make you a target.

Threats include the mentally ill, carjackers, and opportunists who see an easy mark. Additionally, you are dealing with people driving two thousand pound vehicles at 80 miles per hour for hours at a time. That can create rage, which can be aimed at you. Something about the highway has always made people a little crazy.

How To Mitigate Road Trip Dangers

Proper planning prevents piss poor performance, right? So planning includes knowing your route as well as possible. It can be tough to stick to an itinerary with kids, but having backups and good stops is a great way to mitigate danger as a whole. Knowing which rest stops are staffed and have security is one thing I always look for.

Another is to choose the best gas stations possible. What I mean is that certain gas stations are seemingly much nicer than others. Gas stations like Buc-ees, Flying J, and Racetrack tend to be the nicer options in my neck of the woods. They tend to be well-lit, staffed, and in better locations than most. If you can plan your route around these gas stations and rest stops, you’ll be in a much better place. If you stop to pee, then fill up because if it’s safe enough to pee, it’s safe enough to fill up.

Let’s say you arrive at a place that’s less than stellar looking. It’s dark, grimy, shady, and you can see the guy behind the counter lives behind bulletproof glass. Don’t stop, even for a second. Keep rolling. Movement is king, and continuous movement keeps things safe and rolling.

It should go without saying, but don’t become the victim of road rage. Don’t indulge angry drivers, and keep the rude gestures to yourself. Always keep your cell phone charged and ready. Also, pay attention to where you are, and observe mile markers and exits. This way, you can always provide your location to police forces.

Active Self Defense

In terms of self-defense, it’s best to know the law of the states you’re heading through and the states you’re planning to vacation in. As much as we’d like to carry our AR-15 kits with us everywhere, it might not be legal. Know if you can legally carry, and if you can, you should. When you carry, do so in a way that’s easy to retrieve when driving. I recommend always carrying on body. Carrying in a center console or glove box is a bad idea.

It’s slow to access and likely to bounce around. When it bounces around, it might not be where you left it. If you do shove it into a glove box or center console, for safety’s sake, you best have it in a holster. If not, you are asking for trouble and opening up the potential for something to get into the trigger guard and set the gun off.

Vehicle-mounted holsters are also a no-go for me. They are silly, no faster to access, and are a potential danger. Lord forbid you get into an accident and now have a gun bouncing around your vehicle and out of your control. Purchase a quality holster and practice accessing it when seated in your vehicle. Make it part of your dry fire practice for a few days before your road trip.

Hitting the Open Road

Road trips can be fun, frustrating, and ultimately rewarding. They should also be safe, and safety is easy to achieve. It mostly boils down to paying attention to your environment and making smart choices. That’s 99% of security. Get out there, make memories, have fun.

…..oh and keep your eyes on the road.

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Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record-setting 11 months at sea. Travis has trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines, and the Afghan National Army.

He serves as an NRA-certified pistol instructor and pursues a variety of firearms-based hobbies.


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