Dear Brendan,

I’m going to transition my notes to you on Situational Awareness (SA), and bleed this topic of SA over to vehicles, cars.  There is so much to discuss and cover here it’s difficult to pick a starting point.  

I will begin by saying most of us spend a lot of time in our cars.  With this said it’s important that we know our own driving capabilities and the capabilities of our vehicles.  I’m sure we have all spent more time in our vehicles and sitting in traffic than we would like.  This gets me thinking back to all the places I have driven and the time spent driving on various types of roads and environments.  I have driven across the USA (VA to CA).  I have also driven up and down the west coast to and from WA State and California.  I have lived and commuted in the Washington DC area.  I have driven from VA to GA a couple times while I attended training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC).  I have also had the pleasure or headache of driving overseas in parts of Europe, Central America, Asia and Iraq.  I’m currently spending way more time than I would like commuting in and out of Seattle for my job.  

I’ll share with you some of my training that focused on various driving skills that I have learned since I began driving at the age of sixteen.  We can all remember the joys of driver’s education in high school.  But buckle up my friend, as we are about to take driving to another level.  Now your mind probably just jumped to all the Hollywood high-speed car scenes and the “Fast & Furious” series of movies.  Let’s take our foot off the gas pedal long enough to stay on target with the message I’m trying to get across to you.  

 From the time I was 16 years old I have been gaining driving experience and training in all types of vehicles and driving environments.  I went through some off road driving courses in the Marine Corps.  I have completed various driving training at FLETC. It was the same driving courses and periods of instruction given to most State Troopers, City/County police at their Peace Officer Standards & Training (POST).  I later went for more training for the federal government. All types of vehicles, all types of skills.  

We drove regular 4-door cars, mid size 4-wheel drive trucks (Toyota Tacoma), to up-armored SUVs, and armored BMWs.  We did high speed driving, crash and bang driving – to include roadblocks.  We drove on wet surfaces, paved streets, and off road (dirt, mud, gravel).  We learned the importance of the little things, such as air pressure in your tires and how to check our vehicles for IEDs.  I’ll draw upon these experiences and training as we go forward in our conversation.  We can bring all this training to bear in our day-to-day lives– whether you are here at home with your family in the USA, simply driving to and from work, or are OCONUS (Outside the Continental US—I figure as a bonus I’ll clue you in on all the crazy acronyms the USG uses… that’s US Government!) on business or a family vacation.

Since I’m currently dealing with the headache of a long commute into Seattle and the heavy highway traffic I will start off with good old fashion “road rage”.  Oh if only you could see me now as I’m writing this.  I’m actually shaking my head and smiling thinking back to some of the questions Seattle PD asked me regarding driving. Road rage was one of them.  You and I both know that all their questions are asked for a reason and that reason is that it has happened before.

Wow, what a world we live in.  It’s always entertaining just remember to be safe.  Do not become complacent.  

Okay, road rage 101.  I’m sure you have noticed that no matter where you go people in traffic always seem to be in a rush and a hurry to simply cut you off and move ahead two inches in a traffic jam that if it was moving any slower you swear you would be go back in time.  I also am not a fan of those that seem to be riding on your rear bumper as you are in traffic or anywhere for that matter.  It’s simply not smart nor is it safe.  So let’s think about his from a tactical point of view.  How can we best defend ourselves and loved ones if they are also in the car with us from an attack while sitting in traffic, parked at the mall/grocery store, or we and our family are simply trying to get into or out of our car.           

One of the easiest things to do is make sure you leave early and plan your trip.  I mean simply map it out, use GPS, and be prepared.  This alone will put you in a better mindset.  You will make better decisions and not feel rushed.  Let’s not fall into the common mistakes of rushing through a red light, changing lanes without checking our mirrors, or my favorite riding some guys bumper down the street like that is going to make him drive any faster or safer.  This is all careless driving behavior and it will catch up to you.  Remember this, as I like to tell my oldest daughter that is now driving on her own as a responsible teenager.  “Arrive Alive”.   

Now keeping with the SA theme of my past couple notes to you, let’s remember to keep our head on a swivel.  Good SA is key to driving safely.  Let’s not forget we are moving fast in many cases as are other cars or vehicles moving fast and coming towards us.  You do not have a lot of time to process everything happening around you.  Be smart and be safe.  It is often times the little things that get us in big trouble or bad spots, such as texting and driving or being distracted with a phone conversation while driving and not paying attention.  Your main focus is driving, looking at the roadway – any obstacles…  Look where you want the vehicle to go.  To speak shooting for a minute, think eye muzzle target.  It all translates to some degree.            

Do you know your vehicle?  This is important.  Here’s a safety tip.  As soon as you get in your vehicle you should lock your doors.  Next many people put on their seatbelt.  I say wait, take a moment to look around and increase your awareness.  Now, buckle up.  I have some good stories about failing to lock your car door.  I also have some points I’ll try to touch on later about seatbelts on or off.  If I do not get to these here, be sure to reach out to me later and I’m happy to cover down on these areas with you in more detail.  Remember you are vulnerable to a degree in a parked vehicle and being able to get out quickly should be an option.  Seatbelts or not being able to dismount your vehicle quickly costs you time and time could cost your or your loved ones everything up to and including their lives.      

I’m going to close out this note to you now and pick up quickly where we left off in my next note that is soon to follow.

Your Friend,