As self-defence instructors, this is one subject we are asked about on a regular basis when we talk about self-defence and getting home safe.
So, in this article I want to highlight the safety fundamentals when using a taxi. There are a number of dangers when on a night out. Firstly, let me say that none of the information I am about to impart will be of any use if you have consumed too much alcohol.
You could have excellent awareness and self-defence skills but they will be of little or no use if your motor skills are effected (and they will be) by alcohol. Sadly, over 90% of all (reported) arguments, brawls, sexual assaults, stabbings and vandalism involve alcohol.
Vital Practice In Good Self-Defence
So first the list – be extremely cautious of your alcohol consumption. We cannot stress this enough. If you do not have the discipline and self-control to leave a pub, club or party in the same physical and mental state as when you walked in, then this article will be of no use to you. If you need to get drunk every time you have a drink, then you have a problem. It’s the ugly truth. Drinking sensibly is vital practice in good self-defence.
Be Selective of the Company You Keep Many students, past and present who have contacted my school over the years did so as a reaction and result of having been a victim of an attack. As I reflect, many of these survivors had drank too much alcohol. When they ask me: ‘what should I have done to avoid the attack?’, ‘What could I have done to defend myself?’.
The reply is always the same. Your first mistake was, you drank too much. Not all of them like this answer… we never like the ugly truth! If your friends are out on a pub crawl and their obvious intention is to get “jared up”, the choice is yours. Be aware, you will have compromised your ability to effectively protect yourself.
So, how do we go about ensuring we are able to get home safe on a night out?
Book your taxi early or better still- the day before. Don’t leave it too late to book, you may be disappointed and end up having to walk home or take riskier late night transport. I personally have 2-3 business cards of taxi drivers I use on a regular basis!
I give the taxi-driver or company a call early in the day and pre-book my two collection times. It’s the second one that most people neglect, again because of the dreaded drink!
Remember, show respect for your driver, it’s his business and livelihood. If you give him a time to collect you after the party, be punctual or be disappointed. If you are sharing a taxi be selective of who you share with. By this I don’t mean to share with a stranger, never advisable. It’s your drunken friend who you will have to drag (kicking and screaming) from the bar that will give you grief!
Use a Reputable Company
Only ever use a company whom you are familiar with. While most taxi-drivers are decent, there are also many bogus drivers’ using counterfeit plates. Think how easy it would be for a predator to cruise the city looking for an easy target (a lone drunk person late at night in Dublin) over a weekend… like shooting fish in a barrel. Equipped with a false overhead sign and counterfeit plates, that’s all he needs to lure you into his trap. Will you be aware of this with 8 bottles of Bulmers inside you?
Only Divulge What The Driver Needs To Know
Predators are cunning. Be cautious if asked too many questions. Your driver only needs to know one thing, your address. If you feel anything untoward you need to have a game plan in place (see below). In his excellent book ‘The Gift of Fear’ author, Gavin De Becker describes in great detail how easy it is for a predator to (subtly) elicit personal information from you. What may start out as friendly banter can slowly or rapidly degenerate in to menacing dialogue and/or behaviour?
The Game Plan
This is one (variable plan) we teach in our women’s self-defence class.
Travelling alone in a taxi should be avoided. However, this can be impractical for many people. The game plan. Always be sure to tell a family member or friend (who can drive) where you are going and when you will be home. If at any time during the evening you feel unnerved by someone for any reason, casually make a call to the designated person and use your secret password. The game plan can be used in various situations. In this first instance we will look at a bar or club scenario.
The key password here is “film”. We recommend that you choose one password and keep it. Also, only tell two trusted people what this is your password.
For example, “Hi John, Mary here. We are having a good night, just wanted to remind you to tape that film for me, yes, you remember the film I was telling you about? Well it’s about to start, will you do it immediately, thanks.”
If you are still in the venue, politely make an excuse to go to the toilet and exit when it’s safe to do so. If in a taxi, use the rouse of the film followed with an exact location of where you are. I suggest you keep the designated friend on the phone until her/she intercepts the taxi. If you are a long distance away have your friend meet you at a service station, police or fire station. Some place that is busy and/or populated.
Trust Your Intuition
If your intuition senses that something is wrong, always take heed. It will never be wrong. In a situation like the one described above, it is a better option to stay calm and bluff that you are not worried or alarmed by the negative signals that this potential predator is given off.
Of course if this fails you may need to rely on your self-defence skills and tactics. You wouldn’t drive your car without a seat belt. Think of enrolling in a self-defence class as an environmental seat belt. Better to be prepared.
Final Safety Check-list
- When ringing for a taxi make sure no-one can overhear you give personal details such as your name and address, because anyone could turn up and pretend to be your driver.
- Before you go out, make sure you have put your taxi fare in a safe place that is separate to the rest of your money. In doing this, you are less likely to spend it, making sure you can get home safely.
- Make sure you have enough money to pay for your journey. Ask the driver how much the fare will be before you start the journey to avoid any difficulty or embarrassment. It is a criminal offence to hire a taxi without the means to pay the fare.
- Make a note of the make/model and license plate number of the taxi and text this to your friend (see above) .
- If you are travelling alone you may feel safer sitting in the back of the vehicle on the opposite side of the driver, so that you can see him / her in their mirror.
- If you chat to the driver, make sure you don’t give out any of your personal details.
- Never share a taxi with a stranger.
- If you feel threatened or uncomfortable for any reason (use your game plan), ask the driver to stop in a busy area, pay your fare and get out of the car.
- If you cannot exit or escape from the vehicle call 999 immediately and leave your phone down on the floor so that it can’t be seen. When you call the emergency services and leave the line unattended and open they will track the location of the phone in minutes.
- If a situation becomes reckless shout out any information about where you are, hopefully this will assist the police reaching you quicker.
- Lastly, be your own bodyguard. Never solely rely on friends, passers-by or the Police to protect you. Learn skills and tactic’s to defeat these predators.
If you have any questions about this article or would like to find out more about putting together a self-defence game plan, then contact us and one of instructors will contact you shortly.