Situational Awareness: You Use It More Than You Think

Situational awareness is something that often is talked about when it comes to self-defense and personal safety. The term situational awareness encompasses an entire laundry list of actions and skills for keeping yourself safe. A simple definition of situational awareness is being aware of your environment, what is happening around you, and using that information to predict future actions or events that may be a threat to you or cause you harm.

Situational awareness involves skill sets and concepts such as recognizing pre-assault indicators, observing body language, avoiding tunnel vision, maintaining space and or reactionary gap, etc. There are many more factors that go into situational awareness, and when you put them all together, it can be overwhelming.
Situational awareness is a skill like any other and must be practiced in order to strengthen it. But how does the average person practice situational awareness? How do you improve upon these skills The answer is surprisingly easy. If you are a good driver, then you already practice situational awareness. And driving an RV requires even more situational awareness. The things good drivers do constantly when behind the wheel translate quite well to situational awareness as it relates to self-defense and personal safety.

As a driver, you must be aware of the vehicles in front of you and in tune with what they are doing so that you can predict any sudden actions they may take. You also must maintain space between your vehicle and the one in front of you to give yourself time to stop suddenly if needed. By doing this, you are reading driving behavior while also allowing for a reactionary gap so that you don’t rear-end the vehicle in front of you. These same skills can be applied to self-defense situations. You need to always be aware of and take note of the actions of other people in the immediate area so that if those actions present danger, you can immediately react. You also need to maintain space so that you have time to react to an aggressor if needed.

Another habit of good drivers is to consistently check mirrors to see what’s behind you. This can let you know if there are any speeding vehicles or aggressive drivers approaching you, and let you know if it is safe for you to make a lane change, among other things. Staring constantly ahead can give you tunnel vision and make you unaware of your surroundings. Likewise, it’s not good to have tunnel vision when it comes to potential threats to you. There may be one person who is being loud and acting aggressive or causing a scene, but that person may not be the only threat in your immediate area. Observing that person while also actively checking the surrounding area, including what’s behind you, helps to keep you aware of other threats that may exist.

When traveling in your RV, you inevitably will come across aggressive drivers and witness examples of road rage. Every good driver knows it’s best not to engage in a battle of egos with an angry driver. If a car is traveling well above the speed limit and very close to your rear, it’s best to safely get over and let them pass. Simply creating distance between your vehicle and an unsafe or angry driver and letting them move on, or even exiting at that moment to remove yourself from the situation, is always a good bet when driving. Similarly, when confronted with an angry individual or group of individuals elsewhere, it’s best not to engage in a battle of egos. It’s always better to leave the area if possible and/or defuse the situation.

We all know that being distracted while driving greatly increases the chances of becoming involved in a wreck. This is because when driving, you need to be completely focused on the road and what’s going on around you. Looking at a phone or engaging in any other behaviors that cause you to take your eyes off the road puts you at an increased risk.

Similarly, using your phone in other settings causes you to become oblivious to what’s going on around you. This increases your risk of becoming a target for criminals. There is nothing inherently wrong with being on your cellphone or engaging in other activities that divide your attention. However, you must know your surroundings and environment before choosing to do anything that causes you to become less aware.

There are threats and dangers on the roadways, and, inevitably, you’ll encounter some of them. However, this does not mean we should be fearful when traveling. Instead, by maintaining situational awareness and vigilance, we can travel safely and enjoy trips with friends and family. The same is true for situational awareness as it relates to self-defense and safety. You should not let fear cause you to not travel and do things you enjoy. Instead, maintain situational awareness, use common sense, and avoid trouble when you see it developing.

Now that you’re aware that being a good driver has already trained you to use good situational awareness at other times, you can continue to practice when traveling and use those skills in real-world circumstances.


John Hill and John Heise are active career law enforcement officers with over 30 years of experience. They also own Shield Protection Products which provides self defense and safety products.  In their free time they enjoy spending time with family and traveling.  For additional information or questions you can visit their website:

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