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Travel & personal safety tips

September 2018 | Kevin B. Campbell, Esq.
As a retired NYPD police officer with 30 years of experience, I would like to offer some tips for travel and personal safety. Most of us are aware of the usual preparations for getting ready for a business or personal trip.

If your excursion involves a vehicle, make sure to check the vehicle’s oil level and tire pressure before leaving. It’s incredibly disconcerting to be on the highway only to have the low oil light or low tire pressure indicator come up on the dash. More importantly, if your vehicle breaks down on a busy highway, you will want to always be sure to stay inside the vehicle. There have been many instances of tragedy because the occupants left their car and were struck by a passing vehicle. The best course of action is to call 911 for assistance, as your cell phone can be your best friend in emergency situations.

Driving to a new region can also pose challenges. There may be times when your vehicle’s GPS is not accurate and can take you to an unknown location. In this instance, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings. If a stranger approaches the vehicle in an attempt to get your attention, there is no need to lower the window or open the car door.

Of course, it is commons sense to not leave a car that has your entire travel luggage unattended. Highway stops are often favorite locations for thieves who target out-of-state vehicles for break-ins and theft of property. Remember to lock the vehicle and never leave purses or phones in plain view from the outside.

Underground garages are areas that require extra vigilance. When parking, take note of your parking location and be aware of your surroundings. Night time travel also poses particular challenges for your personal safety. When approaching your vehicle after being away for lunch or dinner, keep your keys handy so you can press the alarm/panic button if you feel your safety is compromised.

An out-of-state license plate is an indicator you’re a tourist and likely are carrying travel money and valuable personal property. Do not display any cash unnecessarily or keep your wallet in your rear pocket; instead, put it where you can feel it at all times. While you will likely not be the victim of a theft or robbery, vigilance and awareness is the most important factor in avoiding unpleasant situations.
If you are traveling abroad, be aware that travel by plane requires you to be certain of a number of items long before you leave. Is your passport still valid? Surprisingly, one of the factors that come into play at the airport is travelers having expired passports. In addition, many foreign countries require the passport be valid for at least six months prior to entry into the country.

You will also need to check your purse, carry-on bag or any other items that you plan to carry with you when traveling. Do not take any item that is prohibited by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security; a list of prohibited items can be found by visiting dhs.gov.

Certain toiletries must be contained in an approved clear plastic bag. Cell phones, laptops and photographic equipment may also be subject to scrutiny. If you take prescription medication, always keep it in its original prescription container. Make sure there aren’t any sharp objects in your carry-on bag that could be construed as a knife or cutting instrument.

You will obviously want to keep your luggage with you at all times while at the airport; unattended luggage may prompt someone to call security. Do not permit anyone who offers to assist you with your luggage to take your bags. Remember the safety mantra – “If you see something, say something.”

If you have any questions about the matters discussed in this article, please contact your Legal Service Plan’s National Legal Office at 800-292-8063 or 631-231-1450.