Checkpoints have been set up just outside of town and the national guard is doing house-to-house clearing of all people in the quarantined zones. Democracy has slowly slipped away and Martial law rules the inner cities. The time to leave was two days ago. Pack up the car, air up the tires, and tighten your seatbelt. They’re not going to let you escape easily, and you’ll have to do some pretty intense driving if you plan to make it into the countryside and to your bug-out shelter. Two blocks away and the military police are on your tail. What’s next? You floor it.
“WE HAVE TO TEACH PEOPLE TO USE THE CAR AS A LETHAL WEAPON, AND THAT IS ONE OF THE HARDEST THINGS TO GET PEOPLE TO UNDERSTAND. ”
The car chase is a basic building block of the action-adventure movie genre, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that it’s all just Hollywood stunt driving. Around the world, the very wealthy and politically powerful learn to do everything you’ve seen on the big screen, and quite a bit more. The reason is simple – if someone is after the guy in the back seat, the driver is nothing more than a threat and more likely just an annoyance. The first bullets are always headed for the driver, creating an imperative to get himself and the car out of harm’s way.
Depending on the location and the scenario, drivers are trained not only in evasive and tactical driving, but also in situational awareness and advanced firearms handling. To learn a little more about this world, I contacted a longtime friend. “CB” is a professional racecar driver who moonlights as a tactical driving instructor. Not to be too cloak-and-dagger about it, but CB requested anonymity for the purposes of this interview. “The company I work with provides executive protection. It’s a growing program.
I’ve been to every country in Latin America except Cuba. We go down there for four to five days at a time to teach executive protection, mostly for private sector folks. The main thing we try to teach is situational awareness, route planning, motorcade driving, evasive driving, and ultimately how to use your car for protection and as a weapon,” CB says.
DRIVING IS MENTAL
Experienced readers will not be surprised that most of the training that happens during a tactical driving course is mental.
“THE VERY FIRST THING WE TEACH IS SITUATIONAL AWARENESS OF THE CAR, AND HOW TO DRIVE WITH THREE OTHER CARS, EACH SIX INCHES OFF YOUR BUMPER.”
“There’s a lot to it,” CB says. “The very first thing we teach is situational awareness of the car, and how to drive with three other cars, each six inches off your bumper. We also talk about communicating with a radio or laptop computer. We also understand what the car in front is supposed to do, what the car with the principal is supposed to do, and what the car in the back is supposed to do.”
PREPARATION IS KEY
As with all survival scenarios, preparation is the keystone.“We cover what to do if there is an attack, where different people sit in the car, even how to surround the principal if you have to walk along the road. We also get into case studies on terrorist attacks. The level of planning and preparation that goes into some of these attacks is mind-boggling,” CB says. The core of the course covers what to do when an attack is in progress. “My forte is driving, obviously. But the biggest thing we try to get across to them is that a car is a lethal weapon. It’s a different mindset and sometimes it’s hard for me to flip the switch,” CB says.
FORGET THE RULES
In the course of our normal lives, we are taught to be safe behind the wheel. From the first driver training we ever had, we focused on avoiding crashes, playing by the rules, being courteous, and staying safe. But when safety has already gone well and truly out the window, the focus must shift to survival by any means necessary. “We have to teach people to use the car as a lethal weapon, and that is one of the hardest things to get people to understand. If you go toward someone, you must intend to kill them. You cannot wing them, you cannot maim them, you must intend to kill them, because if you don’t, they will get up and kill you,” CB says.
“WE COVER WHAT TO DO IF THERE IS AN ATTACK, WHERE DIFFERENT PEOPLE SIT IN THE CAR, EVEN HOW TO SURROUND THE PRINCIPAL IF YOU HAVE TO WALK ALONG THE ROAD.”
In the training, drivers are taught how to use their vehicle as a battering ram, how to drive on flat tires, and how to perform the well-known PIT (Precision Intervention Technique) maneuver.
“We wear full protective gear, including mouth guards, elbow pads, and knee pads. Because when we train, we train in a full-con-tact environment. We’re going to pit them, and then we’re going to ram them. Pitting is probably the most delicate maneuver we can do. We also teach them how to counter-pit and to be counter-evasive,” CB says. But the training doesn’t end with cars, because the threats don’t end there, either.
MORE THAN DRIVING
“From there we teach people how to use firearms, and where to hide behind a car if you’re being shot at. We’ll take a car and shoot thousands of rounds into it to show people where to hide. Most people head for the rear wheel, which is near the gas tank, or the driver’s door,” CB says.
For the record, you want to crouch by the front wheel, so that bullets must pass through the engine to get to you. Car doors offer very little protection, and the trunk area even less, plus the gasoline is back there.
“You might be surprised, but motorcycle training is just as intense as for the cars. The other thing that’s big right now is scooters. Around the world, that’s the primary means of transportation,” CB says.
Finally, most will not be surprised to learn that you’ll probably never know which drivers on the road are ready for anything.
“The people who are very, very good at this; you’d never recognize them. They blend in,” CB says. “It’s a completely different mindset. When I travel now, I see the world in a very different way. It’s a mental attitude you have to overcome. I really struggled in my first year. It’s a whole different world.”
Tactical drivers know the best way to disable a pursuing car is to use the rear bumper of your own car against the front bumper of the attacker. The front of a car contains the radiator, headlights, and the most sensitive airbag deployment sensors.
The PIT Maneuver
The Precision Intervention Technique (PIT) maneuver is probably the worst-kept secret in the history of tactical driving. The point is to disrupt the forward momentum of an opposing driver, leaving them stopped on the road, generally facing into oncoming traffic.
The PIT maneuver is performed by approaching the opposing vehicle from behind, and using the front corner of your car to press into the opposing vehicle at or behind the rear wheel, causing a skid. Once the opposing car begins to skid, accelerate and keep the pressure on and the opposing car will rotate across your front bumper and end up on the other side of your car, facing backwards.
Obviously, ramming another car or attempting the PIT maneuver are not to be undertaken lightly. Performed without justification, either maneuver is likely to be considered as attempted vehicular manslaughter or worse. If you want to learn to perform such maneuvers, sign up for a course from one of the driving academies that offer tactical driving instruction.
Driving on Flats
Driving with one or more flat tires is among the most challenging situations that a driver may face. Your tires are your car’s only point of contact with the road, and the source of all traction for your car.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but it’s easier to drive with a flat front tire than with a flat rear. A flat front tire presents itself as heavy and sluggish steering, and the car will pull strongly toward the side with the flat. It’s no fun, but it is at least predictable.
A rear flat, on the other hand, presents itself to the driver as a tendency to slew out of control – pitching one way when you press the accelerator, and the opposite way when you lift off the pedal. Steering inputs also induce swings. The motions are far less predictable and harder to control than a front flat.
Editors Note: A version of this article first appeared in the June 2015 print issue of American Survival Guide.