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Tips on How to Survive a Carjacking

Defensive Driving – A Krav Maga Expert Offers Tips on How to Survive a Carjacking

The concepts shown here are for illustrative purposes only. Seek professional training from a reputable instructor before attempting any techniques discussed or shown in this story.

It was a chilly January evening in Knoxville, Tennessee. A handsome young couple, Channon Christian, 21, and her boyfriend Hugh Christopher Newsom, 23, were having a small spat outside of their apartment. Earlier that evening, Newsom had been late to pick Christian up for a girlfriend’s birthday party. So she sat in her parked Toyota 4Runner while Newsom apologized from outside the driver-side window. As the two were distracted in conversation, carjackers ambushed them.

They demanded Christian’s car keys, forced the couple into the back of the 4Runner, and sped off, taking them to a dilapidated house nearby. Days later, the couple’s disfigured bodies were found in separate locations. Five thugs had raped, tortured, and killed both of them just two blocks from where they had been taken. But it all started with a carjacking.

When someone approaches your car with a gun, they might just want your keys … or they may want much more. To help prevent further atrocities like the one in Knoxville, I’d like to offer some techniques to help readers avoid them and, if necessary, turn the tables on their armed enemies.

Note: These techniques are only as good as your training, so find a good combatives school with a reputable instructor and practice. A lot. Realistic simulation is critical. As Dave Grossman once said, “The body cannot go where the mind has never been.”


Concept No. 1: Awareness
The first thing to address is situational awareness. Most carjackings can be avoided by simply looking around. A few years back, I had a private student who was working as a military contractor in another country and was concerned about being ambushed. I came up with what I call the “three-second rule” and it works like this: Every time you approach “a portal,” you should pause and assess the situation around you for three seconds.

By doing so, you not only enhance your sense of situational awareness and see potential threats before they reach you, but you also send a message to would-be hostiles that you are aware, you are alert, and you aren’t a soft target. Assessing your surroundings can cause them to wait for an easier mark. And when I say “portals,” I’m referring to anything that causes you to wait, even for a moment. Portals can be elevators, ATMs, your car door, etc. They’re where the vast majority of attacks take place. It’s no big deal to take a look around. All it costs you is three seconds.

Concept No. 2: Drive
If someone approaches your car and tells you to get out, look for a weapon. If you can’t see one, just drive away! It’s really that simple. However, if they have a firearm, you take a big risk by speeding off. I knew of a business associate who tried to drive away from a carjacker and got shot in the back several times.

Concept No. 3: Compliance
In most carjacking cases, armed thieves want only your ride. It’s absolutely terrifying, having a gun jammed in your face and being ordered to lie on the ground. But if they only want your car, I’d advise you to give them the keys. You lose a car, you lose a little. Lose your life and you lose everything.

That being said, there are two exceptions to this rule:
1) You suspect they will harm you after you surrender the keys.
2) You have a child or a loved one in the vehicle.

Let’s start with the first exception. If you get the feeling that the carjacker plans to hurt or kill you, then it’s fight or flight. Either option is risky. But if you’re in fear for your life and you see a clear path to escape, take it. If you’re in fear for your life and you see the opportunity to quickly debilitate them, take it.

But if the second exception is happening, if you have a loved one in the car (especially a child), then “flight” is no longer an option. You must fight. Hopefully, you have trained for this. I can honestly say that if anyone tries to jack me and I’m alone, I’ll probably hand over the keys. But if my little girl is in the vehicle? Buddy, you just chose the wrong Jeep.


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