In our first installment on using the vehicle as a primary weapon we focused on scenarios that would most likely play out from static positions like parking lots and other locations where you have just gotten in your vehicle when the threat presents itself. This week we’re going to look at one of the most common types of threats that we must worry about while on the move.
Carjacking incidents have risen worldwide for numerous years now. At one time it was much easier to get inside a vehicle and stealthily defeat the steering column in order to start it up and drive away. There were far less anti-theft security measure in vehicles. Not so any longer. Newer vehicles are inherently harder targets for the average criminal. If someone wants to steal a car today, there is no doubt, the easiest way is to stick a gun in someone’s face and tell them to “get the %$@#” out of the vehicle. Keys are in the ignition and its most likely already running for you. Peachy. Sit down and drive off.
Often we think of choke points such as intersections with stop lights and stop signs as primary places to worry about a Carjacking. We’re slowed down dramatically or stopped and there is limited space to work with to escape (Although, as far as limited space is concerned, a carjacker wants to be able to make a hasty exit too, so he’s probably going to be inclined to choose a vehicle in the periphery that has greater options for clearing the area quickly.).
As a general rule, any time you are stuck in stop and go traffic or at intersections always leave 1-2 car lengths in between you and the vehicle in front of you. This gives you room to generate momentum if you need to run a deadly threat over or ram through a vehicle. Ramming does not always have to be perfectly aligned at 90 degrees as in the video I shared in Part 1. You can ram through vehicles with less angle depending on where exactly you can hit them and how much space is available for your vehicle to squeeze through. You can even ram through vehicles on either side of you, but you have to learn the right approach angles and make sure you are leaving that space in between you and the next vehicle in front of you, otherwise you can’t generate the power to punch through. While fleeing a potential threat, especially a firearm, you may also want to duck or slouch down in between the driver and front passenger seats to shrink your profile and put more vehicle in between you and any possible bullets coming your way, possibly even covering your head and neck with your arm on the side shots are coming from while driving with the other hand.
Always remember to keep your head on a swivel at choke points. Actively search for a way out to drive the vehicle if a threat presents itself. Your available space is constantly changing so you must be continually assessing it. If you have spotted avenues of escape prior to an attack occurring your response time will be much faster than if you have to figure it out under extreme stress. If your possible exits are very limited or none at all then have a firearm ready and within reach, just in case.
Now, intersections and choke points are certainly common locations for a Carjacking to happen at but they are not the only ones to be concerned about.
While you’re driving it’s possible that one or more vehicles may try to stop you and / or pin you in in order to carjack you or, in some cases, rob or kidnap you.
A common tactic used for some time now is the intentional accident or Swoop and Squat as it has been nicknamed. It can happen a few different ways depending on who’s talking about it but here are the basics. One car may either quickly “swoop” in front of you and then immediately brake aggressively, causing you to rear end them or they may partially sideswipe your front end with their rear end as they “swoop” in front of you and then slow down to a stop to exchange information for insurance purposes. You feel compelled to stop because you have just been involved in an accident. Once you get out of your vehicle you are completely vulnerable to attack. Sometimes this may just be to get someone to pay them money for repairs instead of calling the police but the tactic is also a simple set up to carjack someone. Sometimes multiple vehicles may be involved, most often with another vehicle behind yours pinning you in front to back or possibly a third vehicle as well that rolls up on one side, blocking you in from three directions at once. Watch the videos below to see how this tactic can play out.
Swoop and Squat Staged Accidents / Possible Carjacking set up
This video shows a guy carjacking two different vehicles during a police chase using the Swoop and Squat tactic.
The first vehicle the thug jacks, he simply pulls right in front of them and brakes hard, causing the lady to have to slow down quickly and stop mere inches from his bumper. He gets out and goes right back and drags her out of the car and takes off. A short time later as he merges with traffic he sideswipes a lady then pulls over behind her when she stops, gets out and approaches her acting like he is concerned about the accident then rips her out of the vehicle and takes off again.
Being mentally prepared to take off at the first sign of suspicious activity is very crucial to effectively using your vehicle as a first line of protection. In order to do this we need to pay attention to pre-assault indicators and recognize what is normal and abnormal behavior for given situations within the surrounding context. In this video, first, why would someone cut you off and just stop? It’s simply a means to immobilize you, maybe under the guise of an accident, so they can get access to you and your vehicle. What possible legitimate reason could there be that doesn’t involve some sort of threat? Answer: none. How many people immediately bounce out of their vehicle and beeline for your door in a hurry after an accident happens? Answer: normal people do not. Pissed off folks will and criminals intent on getting access to you and your vehicle will.
If people switch lanes suddenly like that right in front of you, instantly find available space, slow down and shift lanes to prevent a collision then get the hell out of there. If a collision occurs under those abnormal circumstances, back up enough to clear their vehicle and then get out of there. Call 911 to report the accident and explain your suspicions then rendezvous with an officer in a safe setting.
If you see 2 or 3 vehicles maneuvering into place around you, remember, coordinated movements between multiple subjects is a huge pre-assault indicator whether on foot or in vehicles. Perhaps someone pulls out in front of you broadside in a choke point area where you are already slowed down and blocks you while one or more individuals approach on foot. Be on high alert. If you see any other pre-assault indicators or a weapon presented, ramming through the vehicle blocking you may be the best response. The same could be achieved by someone who has gotten in front of you then slows down and stops. If you don’t leave sufficient space your options for escape are reduced.
Sometimes going forward is not an option and you may have to back out till you can get turned around. (Backing out at higher speeds takes skill development and practice. Seek instruction.)
Limo Driver does an outstanding job of reversing away from a police officer…until he screws it up…
Also, if you are blocked from the front you should immediately check your six (behind you) to see if a vehicle is preventing you from being able to back out if a threat presents itself.
Pay particular attention to multiple vehicles coordinating to box you in (whether 2 or 3 cars). If you spot this developing it is time to find an out and get out of there before they try to stop you with some form of rolling roadblock. Often this will happen by someone passing you and pulling quickly in front of you while someone else drives up close behind you. They may also have a third vehicle pull up on one side of your vehicle, further limiting your escape options. This tactic is utilized by law enforcement for stopping pursuits sometimes but criminals use it as well. (see video below)
As soon as you see this happening take action. This could mean simply finding some available space to drive, whether it’s shooting the gap between two vehicles and accelerating rapidly away from them, switching lanes preemptively, driving in the median or on a shoulder to get around them, etc. Or, it could mean having to make or at least threaten contact of some sort. A quick twitch of the wheel can make it look like you are swerving to hit the guy next to you. Most people will instinctively reflex away from potential contact, thereby creating an opening to escape through. You may need to P.I.T. the vehicle next to you or in front of you to eliminate the threat. (P.I.T. – Precision Immobilization Technique, spinning the guy out. We’ve all seen it on COPS but you need to seek out training to learn how to do it effectively without damaging your vehicle to the point that it may not be completely drivable afterwards. It’s no good to P.I.T. someone out if it leaves you stranded.)
PIT maneuver demonstrated
When seeking a way out you need to recognize first what is and is not drivable terrain. One must think outside the paved box. Know where else you can drive your vehicle based on its ground clearance and 4wd / all-wheel drive options. (See videos below for some inspiring ideas.)
Watch first minute of video.
Watch from 0:33 – 1:10
Start at 1:00 mark and see what even a small car can do in a pinch.
Other related issues that can occur as well and create problems: Flat tires, airbag deployment and fuel cut-off switches. You can definitely drive on a flat tire. Just be aware of how it will affect the handling of the vehicle. If a front tire is flat when you make turns the vehicle will not give you as much directional change as you like if the flat tire is the outside tire (ex. Front left tire is flat and you are making a right hand turn). If a rear tire is flat then the vehicle’s rear end will easily kick out when making turns where the flat tire is the outside tire. Airbags don’t stop most vehicles from being able to be driven (only some really expensive ones). Push it down and keep going if necessary to escape a threat. Fuel cut-off switches can sometimes activate after a collision. They are designed to keep you and your vehicle from going up in a blazing ball of fire and glory and will not allow the vehicle to start until it has been reset. Some are manual buttons. Some are electronic resets. Know what yours is and how it works. It’s the difference between getting your vehicle up and running again or having to bail out and leave on foot. (See guy drive on multiple flat tires while fleeing police in video below.)
Watch 8:35 – 10:00 mark
All of these are various aspects that may or may not come into play depending on exactly how the carjacker chooses to attack, but all of these help you to see that the focus should primarily be using the weapon you are in first. Get off the X ASAP if at all possible. Sitting still and duking it out should be reserved for when you can’t immediately exit the area safely.
Some of the things we have talked about are simple and easily incorporated on your own but many evasive techniques need to be learned and practiced with a skilled instructor as well as increasing your knowledge and ability concerning Vehicle Dynamics in general. Seek out quality training. (See videos below)
Seal Team Soup (This is a video made and posted by the client during training at ACADEMI with some of my coworkers. It was a group of Corporate Executives having a good time, learning some new skills and finding their limits through both success…and errors…)
Kevin Estela learning High Speed Driving while training with me at ACADEMI
Remember: Movement is Life. Stay safe out there and don’t let anyone stop your train.
About the Author
After almost 12 years as a Police Officer and Patrol Sergeant, including 3.5 years on a SWAT team, Mike went to work at ACADEMI (formerly known as Blackwater) full time in 2006 teaching High Speed, Tactical and Off Road Driving as well as Hand to Hand Combatives. He has experience in Unarmed Close Protection security work, CONUS and OCONUS. He has been in martial arts for 25 years and currently trains Sayoc Kali and teaches Sayoc classes in Portsmouth, VA. He also teaches Avoiding Violence / Attack Recognition and Use of Force Legal classes. He recently became a contributing writer for Harris Publications and has written articles for Personal and Home Defense, Guns and Weapons for LE and Survivor's Edge. You can contact Mike through his Facebook page: Hard Target Sayoc Kali Training Group where he routinely dissects attack videos for pre-assault indicators amongst other content.