Rest stops were intended to be safe havens for motorists to pull off the highway, use the facilities, get water, and walk around a bit. Some provide picnic areas and pet walking places for the convenience of travelers. Sadly, rest areas can also be places for criminal activity. To protect yourself, your family and your possessions, keep in mind these safety tips for rest stops.
Check around before you get out of the car
As you approach a rest area, note the name and location so you can call for help if needed. Keep your cell phone with you, ready to use. Look around for suspicious activity or loiterers. Try not to be the only person present. If traveling alone, it might be better to go to a facility with people, such as a service station or restaurant.
Don’t sleep there
Sleeping at a rest area is increasingly a bad idea. Many ban staying there overnight because of this. If you are traveling at night and find yourself getting tired, look for an inexpensive motel, or a state park that will allow you to stay for a small fee. This is a much safer alternative.
Go before dark
Most crimes committed at rest stops occur after the sun goes down. Stay in a group if you must stop after dark, and if traveling alone, choose a manned facility that is well lit.
Check the surroundings
Be aware of what’s happening around the perimeter of the rest area. Leave if you note suspicious activity. Try to locate uniformed security personnel so you have someone to go to if a problem arises.
Don’t draw attention to yourself
Dress casually, and don’t wear expensive jewelry. If you buy snacks at the machines, have change ready so you don’t need to pull out your wallet. Keep your purse snugly tucked under your arm, and walk briskly with purpose. Keep your head up and look around so you don’t look like an easy target for mischief.
Lock your car
Locking your car not only will keep your possessions safer, but will also make it less likely for you to return and end up in the car with an unwanted guest.
Check buildings before going in
Before entering any building or room at a rest stop, check to see who’s inside. Try to make sure other people are around to lessen the likelihood that you will be victimized.
Don’t go it alone
Make a rule that everyone gets out of the car at every stop. This cuts down on the number of stops necessary, and keeps everybody safer. Go in a group, especially with young children. If traveling with little ones, see if a family restroom is available.
Keep an eye on the kids
Don’t let the kids out of your sight, even for a few seconds. You’re close to an easy getaway route, so be extra cautious. Don’t frighten your children, but do keep them close.
Keep the windows up and doors locked
If someone approaches to ask for help or directions, stay in the vehicle with doors locked. Crack the window just a bit. Offer to call for help, but do not get out of your car.
Keep your keys in your hands as you approach your car
On the way back to your car, have your keys ready in your hand. This way, you can quickly open the vehicle and get your family inside.
If attacked, fight back loudly
Never let someone move you from a place with people around to a more isolated area. Fight back and be loud. Leaving with someone who accosts you is the most dangerous thing you can do.
Leave immediately if you don’t feel safe
If you feel insecure, trust your instincts. They are there for your protection. Drive off and find a safer place to stop.
The Interstate Travel Guide lists up to date information on the location, security measures and amenities of rest areas. Consult it to make your trip easier to plan. Common sense precautions will help you and your family stay safe at rest stops.
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