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Personal Safety Tactics: What to Do if You're Stuck on the Side of the Road

In this week's safety column, find out what to do if you're running out of gas with no gas station in sight.

The Scenario
It’s late at night and you’re on the last leg of your trip. The gas gauge shows that you have between 1/8 and ¼ of a tank left. No problem—there are plenty of gas stations up ahead, so you continue driving, figuring that you’ll fill up at the exit or two.

The Personal Safety Tactic
Wondering what a vehicle’s gas level has to do with personal safety? Not a thing, until you run out, or pull off and find that the gas stations are closed.

Running out of gas is the worst scenario because you’re stuck alone at the side of the road. You could use your cell phone to call the police, but the possibility also exists that someone could roll up behind you in a decidedly non-police car; a stranded motorist, especially a woman alone at night, is a favorite target of some criminals.

On the other hand, you may have no choice but to pull into a dimly lit out-of-the-way station and fill up. I’ve been to quite a few of those types of stations and some of the people who hang out at them are doing more than making purchases or discussing ball scores. They’re looking for people who they can convince to help improve their economic situation.

These are a couple of those “99 times out of 100” scenarios in which the police show up, a good Samaritan brings you a can of gas, or you pull off, fill up and go happily on your way. But why put yourself at increased risk. There’s no law that says a gas tank has to be close to empty before you fill it, and with a little planning and forethought, you can assure yourself that you won’t run out of gas, or be forced to stop at one of those stations that should only exist in movies.

You should know the approximate gas mileage of your vehicle along with its gas tank’s capacity. If it has a 20-gallon tank, and gets 22 miles per gallon, you can drive 440 miles between fill-ups. To leave yourself an acceptable safety margin, you should be sitting in a gas station if you’ve driven 370-380 miles since the last fill up. (An easy way to keep track of mileage is to reset the trip meter when you fill up. If your car doesn’t have a resettable mileage indicator, you can jot down the odometer reading when you fill the tank.)

And under any circumstance, keep in mind your mileage may vary….

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