Tips For Driving Through Protests, Mobs & Riots
Watching recent news coverage of the political mayhem which has been unfolding on some of our major roads in Nairobi is quite disheartening. Videos of hopeless motorist stopped and mobbed by angry rioters graced our screens and social media sites.
Nairobi has seen it’s fair share of protests and mob actions where protesters block streets and even highways. The past several months have been quite trying politically, and Nairobi’s emasculated police seem less and less capable of controlling these situations.
For these reasons, it seemed timely to post some tips on how to drive through a mob or riot and get home safely.
We have assembled a decent list of tips and the best tactic is to avoid getting in this type of situation in the first place.
But if you are unlucky enough to caught driving through a riot, the most important point to remember is your vehicle is your best protection. So unless your vehicle is on fire, stay inside your car–it’s your safest protection against an angry mob.
Lock your car doors
You don’t want rioters to be able to open your vehicle’s doors to attack you or your passengers. So keep your doors locked until you have safely escaped the area.
Roll up your windows
Another obvious but important tip is to roll up your windows so rioters can’t reach inside your vehicle. Car windows are pretty strong and can withstand a lot of abuse before they break. Some believe car windows are even harder to break if you lower them a fraction of an inch.
Keep your seat belt on. Not only should you be belted in for safety reasons in case you have to make a speedy or creative escape, but also to make it more difficult for someone to pull you from your vehicle.
Put your emergency blinkers on
Blinkers will alert people in the street that you’re vehicle is being operated and to stand back as you come through. The goal is to not strike anyone or injure people–even those who are illegally blocking the street–with your vehicle.
Honk your horn
As you are driving through the mob and rioters are walking toward your vehicle, honk your horn to warn them your vehicle is moving and you’re not going to stop.
Do not engage rioters
Try not to communicate with any of the rioters. Do not engage them with taunts or even what you think is friendly conversation. Chances are any discussion will escalate tensions and just incite an already heated situation.
Take video If you have a dash cam, turn it on. If you have a smart phone or video camera, start it rolling. You want to have documentation in case something goes wrong and you need to show evidence to law enforcement that it was the rioters and not you violating the law. And that you were within your rights to drive in the manner you did.
Do not stop, always keep moving
No matter what you do, keep your vehicle in motion at all times. Once your vehicle is stopped the threat to you and your passengers increases dramatically.
The key is to drive slow enough to allow rioters to get out of your way and/or not injure anyone, but fast enough so no one can get on top of, or grab onto your vehicle or impede your car in any way. The last thing you want is a mob of people swarming over your car and stopping you from escaping or inflicting harm upon you and your passengers.
If someone tries to stop your vehicle by standing in front of it–do NOT stop. Slow down, but do not stop. In this situation just take your foot off the gas pedal and allow the engine to slowly push them out of way. Don’t accelerate erratically and strike the people blocking your vehicle. Instead nudge or push them out of the way as gently as possible. Again, the goal is to escape the situation safely without injuring anyone.
However, if the crowd begins to attack your vehicle and you believe you and your passengers are in imminent danger, then steadily increase your speed to the point where rioters cannot disable your vehicle and get out of there as quickly as possible. If it comes down to a choice of protecting your friends and family and striking a rioter–the choice is obvious.
What happens if you do strike someone?
If you do strike someone, first, safely escape the situation. Once you reach a safe distance away. Call the police, report the incident and wait for further instructions from law enforcement. As long as you do this, you will likely not be charged with hit and run.
Remember, the street is for vehicles–not for mindless swarms of protesters–no matter how moral or worthy the cause may be. They are breaking the law while you are just trying to legally drive your vehicle on the public way–one specifically designated for motor vehicles.