1. Be careful where you park.
Find a well-lit spot or lot, whether it's indoors or out. Avoid spots where few other vehicles are parked. Steer clear of vans, especially commercial models that lack glass side panels, where wrongdoers can hide. Lock your car, and memorize or jot down its location.
2. Have your keys handy.
Fumbling for keys in a handbag can give a criminal the extra few seconds he needs. Consider attaching a canister of pepper spray to your keychain. Make sure the car is locked once you are in.
3. Pay attention to vehicles near yours.
As you head back to your vehicle, is someone sitting in another vehicle's passenger side, next to where you'll be getting in? Is the vehicle pulling out, or just idling? If it's the latter, back off. This could be trouble.
4. Avoid playing Good Samaritan.
This is especially true if you're waved down by a lone man in a remote location whose car seems to have broken down. Use your cell phone to call his location in to the police. They can help him out.
5. Think twice about pulling over for an unmarked police car.
If you don't think you've done anything wrong or think the "officer" looks suspicious turn on your hazards and wave to acknowledge that you see them. Then drive slowly to a well-lit, populated area — a gas station or convenience store, for example — before pulling to a stop. Don't leave your car or roll down the window. Make the officer show his official identification card. Don't settle for a badge or an official-looking hat — they're easy to find.
6. Know where you're going at all times.
Have directions handy whenever you're going somewhere new. Consider keeping a GPS device in your car if it doesn't have a navigation system. The device will allow you to be tracked and to call in your precise location if you become lost or just aren't good at reading maps.
7. Keep your vehicle well serviced.
A poorly maintained engine can let you down at exactly the wrong time — or place. The same goes for batteries that haven't been charged recently or tested in cold weather. Tires that are long in the tooth and short in the tread can go flat just when they're needed most. Keeping up on your maintenance can go a long way toward avoiding a bad situation.
8. Use all of your car's safety and security features.
Read the manual — you may not even know how your car can help protect you. For example, run-flat tires can go up to 150 miles if they spring a leak.
9. Have a plan when trouble arises.
If confronted by a potential abductor or carjacker while you're in or around your car, drop your packages and run, while making lots of noise. Experts say most criminals will quit right there. What you want to avoid at all costs is going with them to another location, even if they say you won't be hurt. Once you no longer control the situation, you have few options. If you're being followed by another car, head to a police station or a petrol station. If you are driving and discover someone hiding in your backseat, slam on your brakes to throw them off balance, stop the car and run.
10. Always let someone know where you're going.
The back-up person can alert police quickly if you fail to return on schedule, saving critical time — and perhaps your life.