Some time back I read a story about a robbery in the drive-through lane of a fast food restaurant. No, it wasn’t a robbery of the restaurant — it was a robbery of the people sitting in line!
When you think about it, the drive through lane is a perfect spot for a robbery: you have people sitting in a confined space, unable to easily leave, with their wallets out and preoccupied with their stomachs. Sometimes their passengers serve as the preoccupation, especially if they’re children!
Most people at one time or another will find themselves in a restaurant drive-through. (I don’t eat much fast food, in fact I very rarely do. From time to time, though, even I find myself in line, getting a large unsweetened iced tea to drink while running errands.) It’s actually something of a wonder that robberies don’t happen more often. It’s always possible that they do, and they’ve become so common that they’re not newsworthy. The next time you’re at a drive through, watch your fellow food seekers; I’ll bet you see that they’re completely unaware of the position into which they’ve put themselves.
Don’t be like them.
There are several things you can do to enhance your safety at the drive through. The first is to recognize that you’re a sitting duck, so to speak. As you pull into the parking lot and make your way to the back of the restaurant, where the drive through lanes invariably begin, take a look around. Notice what kind of neighborhood borders the restaurant; many of them are in areas where you normally wouldn’t want to be after dark.
You’ll probably see lots of places where an enterprising crook could hide and pounce on an unwary driver. Foil his plans by making sure that all your doors are locked and that all your windows are rolled up. Deny him the ability to get to you.
As you enter the drive through lane, pay attention to the areas around the order kiosks. They’re often planted with shrubs where someone could hide, and the larger kiosks can even serve as cover for someone intent on taking your wallet or car.
Leave some room between you and the car in front of you. A good rule of thumb is to allow enough space that you can see the rear tires of the car in front of you. That leaves you enough maneuvering space to quickly turn the steering wheel and accelerate out of the line, away from danger.
When you get to the order kiosk roll down your window only and give your order quickly. The longer you spend ogling the menu, trying to decide between Meal Deal #1 and #3, the longer you’re exposed to potential danger. Place your order and then immediately roll your window back up.
During the wait to get to the payment and serving windows, don’t allow yourself to be distracted by handling your wallet or counting/arranging your money. Keep an eye out for anyone approaching your vehicle.
The space between the order kiosk and the first (payment) window is usually where people are most vulnerable. That space often has a number of places, such as large shrubs or garbage carrels, where criminals can hide. The cars going past usually have their windows down from placing their order, but with your window closed you can keep a watch on that area as you pass safely.
As you get up to the payment and delivery windows, get as close to the building as you can. Doing so reduces the space available for an attacker to operate, and as a consequence the space between the windows is the safest in the entire drive through.
After you’ve gotten your order, roll your window up and proceed quickly out of the drive through lane. If you need to stop to arrange your food or check your order, drive into the parking lot proper and quickly get your food out. If you have passengers, there is no need to stop — trust that they’ll find your bacon cheeseburger without onions for you!
Understanding that you’re in a vulnerable position in what may be a hostile area should guide your activities. The drive through lane can be a safe experience as long as you keep your head about you and don’t lapse into distracted habits. Pay attention to what you’re doing, and the biggest risk you’ll be taking is eating that food in the first place!
Photo: Derek Jensen (Tysto), Wikimedia Commons
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