Cabs have become an essential mode of transportation in cities for women who work in high-pressure jobs. Working women find cabs more convenient than buses and trains because they are available 24×7. However, when it comes to safety, ‘what happens in the cab, stays in the cab’, so to speak. Indeed, sexual assault is becoming increasingly common in cabs.
Therefore, it is important for women to follow certain rules in order to deter a potential offender from taking advantage. Here are 9 tips that women should keep in mind to ensure they reach their intended destination safely:
1. Know Your Route
It is important to know the route from home to office and back. If you are starting a new job, try to be aware of the route from relatives and peer groups. Even if you have only a general idea, look out for prominent landmarks to confirm that you are traveling on the right path.
If you are totally new to the place, make sure to refer to Google Maps before setting out. Make it a point to mentally chart a primary route from home to office and back. Also, have two secondary routes handy in case of emergencies like political rallies, riot-like situations, or extreme weather conditions.
2. Keep Your Friends And Family Informed Of Your Whereabouts
Utilize free messaging apps like WhatsApp to inform your family and office about your exact location. Quick texts like “I am on so-and-so road, will be at the office in so many minutes” or “I am stuck in traffic at xyz road, and will be coming home via the following route” are mandatory to enable your loved ones to be aware of your whereabouts.
3. Stay Alert
However early you may have risen or however hectic the day has been, a taxi is not the place to nap. Be fresh and alert throughout the trip even if it bores you as many a time, staying alert helps avoid situations that lead to a crime.
One should also keep in mind that impromptu trips should be made before you embark on the journey from your home to office and vice versa. Stopping mid-way can distract you from the main task of following the route and dims your alertness to your surroundings.
4. Keep an eye on the driver and his movements
Take a good look at the driver before you get in. Do not discount him as just another person driving a cab. Mentally note down his physical appearance, approximate height, and age. Also, take notice of any distinguishing features like facial marks, speech, ornaments on his wrists, etc. Basically, make a note of any piece of information which can be easily seen from the back-seat.
Watch out for any sudden swerves or jerks and be aware if he suddenly increases his speed for no apparent reason. Also, be vigilant and observe whether he is constantly observing you through the rear-view mirror.
5. Do not let your emotions distract you
Do not think that you are in a personal space once you are seated in the back seat of a cab. You are very much in a public space and at close quarters with a stranger – your driver. Emotions of happiness, anger, or sadness can cloud your thoughts and make you shift your attention inwards and away from your surroundings. Remain calm, collected, and passive when you are traveling, without your face and body language giving any signs of overt emotional stress.
6. Keep an eye out on the driver and talk to him only to keep him on the route
Do not stare at the driver to the point of discomfort and do not ignore him to make him feel that he is free to do anything. Behave in a manner which will make him realize that you are the one in charge. Direct him through the route, ask him how he will proceed from a particular landmark. Thereafter, cease two-way communication and open dialogue only if he seems to go the wrong way or misses a certain place in the route. This makes the driver aware that you are watching his actions and deters him from trying to impose his own actions during the journey.
If the driver suggests giving a lift to a friend or relative of his, curtly deny him permission. If he persists, immediately get out of the cab at the nearest public location, preferably one that is crowded. Avoid getting down at lonely roads or near empty bus stops and rickshaw stands. Get down at locations which are effectively illuminated by street lights and have a reasonable amount of human and vehicular traffic.
7. Ensure windows and doors are in working condition
Check both the rear doors and windows casually to see if they are functioning properly. Any door which appears to jammed or any window which appears to be stuck is a sign that the space you are about to enter is more restricted than what it is supposed to be. In case you find a malfunctioning door or window, make the driver stop near a crowded and well-lit area, step out of the car, and tell him to inspect the problem. If the driver cannot rectify it and gives a reason which does not add up, leave the cab and look for another mode of transport without getting agitated. If you are mentally ready to shift to the front seat for the rest of the journey, maintain an alert and aggressive stance.
8. Maintain a professional relationship
The driver is not your buddy. Exercise caution when a driver tries to becomes extra-friendly or chatty during the journey. This should be treated as an attempt to extricate information from you. An effective way to deal with this is by asking the driver questions about himself. Ask him about his place of birth, family, his residence, etc. In this way, you are in control – you can keep him engaged throughout the duration of the journey as well as direct him to take the route of your choice.
9. Try to remove distractions like loud music and strong smells
Religious freedom allows all of us to honor our deities at our place of work and many drivers do the same. Some drivers enjoy loud music as it stops them from sleeping at the wheel, and some use strong perfumes, car fresheners, or incense sticks to keep them fresh. However, if the smell bothers you, tell the driver to roll down the windows. Similarly, if the music is too loud, tell him to reduce the volume. As a passenger, your senses should not be overpowered in any way. Proactively and politely get the space inside the cab modified so that you can maintain your alertness and decisiveness.
Cabs are just an extension of a public space given to you to traverse a certain distance and it should remain so always. It is not the space to display emotions or discuss personal matters. More importantly, it is certainly not the space to display emotional or physical romantic nuances of behavior on the phone or with a fellow passenger. It also doesn’t warrant for one to display one’s fears and insecurities openly.
Compose yourself when you get into a cab and maintain a vigil until you reach your destination. Criminals look for small behavioral signs which display insecurity, fear, and disorientation. They then sublimely exploit your emotions to their advantage. Don’t let the person driving steer you into being a victim of a crime. Remember, an attitude of constant vigilance goes a long way in ensuring your safety within the four walls of a cab.
This post has been authored by Colonel Omar Pathare (retd), the founder of FORTIFY Security Management Solutions. To make your residential, commercial, and public spaces safe and secure, you can reach out to him at http://www.fortifyindia.com/.