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Parking Lot Safety at Night for Women | Ten Easy Tips

Updated on September 20, 2015
Be very aware of your surroundings at all times.
Be very aware of your surroundings at all times. | Source

Ladies: Stay Safe in Parking Lots!

While women may be perceived to be more at risk from nighttime crimes in parking lots and out on the street, the problem is widespread, and not limited to women. Men, too, can fall under attack. However, I address this mainly to women because some habits we gals have can put us at further risk.

Here, then, are ten best ways to thwart an attacker by not even giving them the opening they need. Most such crimes are rather spur-of-the-moment actions of opportunity, rather than pre-meditated. Even if the attack was thought out beforehand, the criminal is likely to go after the easiest target. So don’t be that target!

Parking Garages

While usually well lit, they can have their own hazards. Things to be aware of include:

  • People can hide behind support pillars; try not to park right next to one
  • Elevators: use alone, or with a friend, but don't get in if only a male is inside; pretend it's your floor and exit if a (male) stranger gets in
  • Enclosed stairwells are a bad place to be caught alone; avoid using if possible

Number One

First of all, whenever possible, park right under or very near to a light standard. Well-lit areas are less attractive to crooks. We've all heard this before, but it bears repeating.

This applies to all areas you may park at night, not just parking lots. If you can find a parking spot under a street light, great.

Closed parking garages offer overall lighting, but also come with their own sets of things to watch out for. (See sidebar.)

Park under or very near lighting standards whenever possible.
Park under or very near lighting standards whenever possible. | Source

Number Two

Get your keys out and hold them firmly in your hand before you leave the building. Don’t be fumbling around in the dark looking for your keys in your purse.

If you have a small flashlight with you, so much the better, so you can easily see the keyhole when you get to your car. There are small ones available that fit right on your keychain.

Keys can make good emergency weapons.
Keys can make good emergency weapons. | Source

Number Three

Hold your keys with the longest one pointing out between your index and middle fingers; the rest clenched into your fist. This makes a good emergency makeshift weapon should someone grab you. Go for the face; when you are under attack is no time to worry about being careful or polite.

It's a good idea to also hold them so the remote is positioned under your thumb, so if you see a potential problem, you can hit the car's alarm button.

Number Four

Common advice says to not park near other vehicles, particularly vans with side-opening doors.

This is rather useless advice, as you have no control over who parks next to you later on.

However, if there is such a vehicle on your driver’s side when you return, consider getting in on the passenger side instead.

Belt Pouches are a Good Idea

Everest Multiple Pocket Waist Pack, Black, One Size
Everest Multiple Pocket Waist Pack, Black, One Size
A waist pouch, belt pouch or 'fannypack' such as this is a safer alternative to a standard purse for nighttime use.

Number Five

Don’t carry your purse over one arm, or dangling in your hand.

Use a bag with a shoulder strap, and carry it slung across your body, on the diagonal, so it is not easily grabbed.

Or, you can use a belt pouch type of bag that fastens around your waist. A swinging purse is an invitation to a thief or mugger.

Not the ideal kind of purse to carry if you are out and about at night.
Not the ideal kind of purse to carry if you are out and about at night. | Source
Don't invite muggers and thieves!
Don't invite muggers and thieves! | Source

Number Six

Be observant. Before you step out of the building’s entry area, look around and see if you see anyone lurking about acting suspiciously.

If you see such activity, immediately go back inside, and ask for a security person to escort you to your vehicle.

Walk with your head held high, and continually scan the area as you are walking. Crooks love people who are not paying attention.

Number Seven

Notice that as you approach your vehicle, the parking lot lighting causes the windows to act as mirrored surfaces.

You can see your own reflection.

Use that to your advantage, to look over your shoulder without turning around, to see if anyone is nearby or approaching your location.

Number Eight

As soon as you get into your car, lock the door.

This is the first thing you should do, before even starting the engine.

Number Nine

Don’t sit there fiddling with things or yakking on the phone!

Start your engine right away, before you even fasten your seatbelt. That way, if someone does approach, looking as if they might try to break a window, you are able to step on it and peel out, leaving them spinning where they stand.

If no one is around, then go ahead and fasten your seatbelt before pulling out.

Self defense classes are very important for women and girls.
Self defense classes are very important for women and girls. | Source

Number Ten

Take a self-defense class! This is the number one way to feel safe, confident and strong when you are alone at night (or in the daytime).

I encourage this for all women and girls. It builds strength, discipline, self-confidence and is a vital thing to know, not only in case of muggers, but also bullies.

Here, I'm not talking about a 'quickie' self-defense course at a parks and recreational facility for a few weeks; I'm talking about enrolling in an actual self defense school, and making it an ongoing study. Whether you decide on karate, judo, ju-jitsu, or some other form of martial arts, it is important enough that it could save your life or that of a loved one someday.

(Lest you think you could not perform any self-defense moves, please have a look at the video below. I think you'll find you are mistaken!)

Martial Arts are Adaptable for ALL Abilities

I hope you’ve found some useful tips here, and I hope you stay safe always.

Do you think these tips were helpful?

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Submit a Comment
  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    4 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Thanks again, Peg--delighted to see you again.

  • PegCole17 profile image

    Peg Cole 

    4 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

    I came back to review these tips after watching the news where someone was attacked in a parking garage. This is the time when people are vulnerable to someone who has crime in mind. Your tips will definitely help others and as you've said, stay alert at all times.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    5 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hi there, Jeannieinabottle,

    An excellent idea! Pepper spray is a deterrent for sure.

    Glad you liked the article-thanks much for the votes!

  • Jeannieinabottle profile image

    Jeannie Marie 

    5 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    I always carry pepper spray with me and make it obvious when I am walking by myself. An attacker is less likely to go after someone that does not look like an easy victim. It is not that it can't happen; it does reduce the risk though.

    Great hub and voted up and useful!

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    5 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hi, annart!

    You've added an excellent additional idea, about carrying a heavy torch (flashlight). Hubby says the best way to do that, is to hold it 'backwards,' by the business end, so the back side can be used as a club, and it won't come out of your hand as easily, either.

    Thanks so very much for the well-thought-out comment, suggestions, votes and share!

  • annart profile image

    Ann Carr 

    5 years ago from SW England

    Excellent advice, especially the thumb on the remote and the window as a mirror. I often put the largest key in the 'ready to jab' position. One can never be too careful. I always lock all doors as soon as I'm in and the door's shut.

    Parking spaces are often really narrow here in Britain and that makes for nerves; I don't go to car parks where there's no lighting and rarely to a multi-storey at night.

    Hitting the horn and staying on it is a good deterrent if you're already in the car. Using a heavy torch to get to your car is good; you can then use it as a weapon if necessary. Pretending to talk to someone near your car is good too!

    Invaluable advice here. Up ++ and shared.


  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    5 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hi there, FlourishAnyway!

    Spot on! My husband taught me that years ago; walk with your head high, looking around, aware of your surroundings, and move with purpose.

    As to the cane--I did use a cane for a while prior to my knee replacement surgery. This is why I am so strong an advocate of taking serious martial arts self-defense classes; I was taught ways for that cane to become a weapon of self-defense, and such an action would take an attacker by such surprise that you would be able to disable them long enough to get away.

    Parking in the handicapped spaces, if eligible, is also a good idea--when they are available. All too often, there are too few such spaces for the needed numbers, and/or inconsiderate people who are not qualified park there because they are too lazy to walk a few extra steps.

  • FlourishAnyway profile image


    5 years ago from USA

    Definitely walk with confidence with a firm, quick step like you would bust someone's chops if they gave you trouble. The one thing to be alert about is that if you have a limp or cane, research indicates that assailants do look for that as a sign of physical weakness, so use the disabled parking spots if you are eligible.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    5 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hi there, Glimmer Twin Fan!

    That sounds like a terribly scary thing to have happen! I'm glad she managed to escape!

    Thanks so much for sharing.

  • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

    Claudia Mitchell 

    5 years ago

    Useful tips DzyMsLizzy - When I was a teenager a neighbor was kidnapped in a grocery store parking lot, but thankfully managed to escape the moving car. It was a horrible thing for her and I learned to be very careful about where I park and my surroundings.

  • Wasif721 profile image


    5 years ago from Pakistan

    you're most welcome :)

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    5 years ago from Oakley, CA

    @ Josewilliam -Thank you very much; I'm glad you liked the article.

    @ Wasif721 - Ooops--I see what I did. Thanks for your input, and pointing that out. I'll go fix it right now! I'm glad you liked the article.

  • Wasif721 profile image


    5 years ago from Pakistan

    nicely written. you missed out number 4 i think

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    5 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hi there, peachpurple,

    What you say is true; however, it is not always possible in all circumstances, hence, I've given these tips that will help. Thank you for stopping by and for your input.

  • peachpurple profile image


    5 years ago from Home Sweet Home

    it is best to walk to carpark with other person rather than alone

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    5 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, poetryman6969,

    Agreed, a cell phone is a good thing to have, but not everyone has one, and it is not a good idea to try to fish out your phone if you are in imminent danger of attack. In fact, a cell phone held visibly in the hand can often be a target for thieves, causing a problem where none might have existed.

  • poetryman6969 profile image


    5 years ago

    Some good tips but I still try to make sure my wife always carries her phone. I seem to remember a woman trapped in her car who was able to phone for help as the car was sinking in a river.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    5 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hi there, MsDora!

    I'm glad you found this useful and liked the article. Many thanks for your kind comment.

  • MsDora profile image

    Dora Weithers 

    5 years ago from The Caribbean

    Great advice for women and men. Thanks for these very important safety tips.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    5 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, lovedoctor926,

    Thanks so much for stopping by. I'm delighted you found the article useful. The key chain flashlights are a useful item to have, regardless; for example, you never know when your porch light might burn out and you need to be able to see the keyhole in your own door! ;-)

  • profile image


    5 years ago

    Thank you for these useful tips. The key chain flashlight is a clever idea. I am going to see if I can purchase a few for myself and family.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    5 years ago from Oakley, CA

    LOL, Larry! Too funny!

  • Larry Fields profile image

    Larry Fields 

    5 years ago from Northern California

    Hi Lizzy,

    Speaking of martial arts . . . I've invented one of my own: Larry Fu. With Larry Fu, you can use your hiking pole to rescue another hiker, who's being mauled by a mountain lion. So what if there's only one move in my martial arts system? It's in my otherwise boring hub about hiking poles.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    5 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hi, Audrey!

    Thanks much! Yes..I always try to park as near the door as I can, and by lights when possible. Though, I do walk with a confident air that says, "'think twice before you make me a target!" LOL

  • AudreyHowitt profile image

    Audrey Howitt 

    5 years ago from California

    Wonderful tips here--they can be scary at night!

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    5 years ago from Oakley, CA

    @ Rhonda Lytle--Thanks so much for the awesome comment, and for sharing your experiences. You’re correct, that it can be a truly scary situation, and you are also spot-on with the need for continual practice in order for your response to be automatic.

    @ sallybea--Wow--I can’t even imagine never stopping at traffic lights; that must make for really scary driving, as well! However, if the way is clear, and someone did approach my vehicle while I was stopped, I’d have no qualms about peeling out! Thanks so much for sharing your story!

    @ PegCole17--Thanks so very much for stopping by. I’m glad you liked the article. Cheers!

    @ Larry Fields--Thank you for your input. I’ll answer your points here:

    RE: #3: I agree that face-to-face, the car keys might not be very effective, but if you are grabbed from behind, and reach up with a backwards punch over your shoulder, , that’s going to be pretty much at the level of hitting them right in the eye, and they’re going to let go in a huge hurry, leaving you to get the hell out of dodge.

    RE: #10: I said not one word about “quickie” self defense classes (if you watched the video, nothing there is about 'quickie' lessons.) I’m talking about actual martial arts courses at a real dojo. I’ve been studying karate for 5 years, and am currently a purple belt. I’m confident I can take care of myself. (And I’d be even further along, had it not been for a break in training, to recuperate from knee replacement surgery due to an old injury.)

    You do raise an excellent point about changing out of the fashion shoes for sneakers before you leave the building. I did not think about that, since sneakers are pretty much all I ever wear, anyway. Comfort first, last and in the middle is my motto. I don’t ‘do’ high heels; I value my ankles and feet too much.

    Carry at least $20 in cash? Easier said than done, when you are a senior citizen on a fixed income with barely enough money to get your main bills for housing, food, and utilities paid, sometimes being lucky to have even $10 left in the bank at the end of the month. It might work for some people, but not for everyone.

    The money belt is a good idea, for those who would rather not use the belt pouch/fanny pack option. By the way--it may be called a ‘fanny pack,’ but I carry mine in front, not behind me unless I’m away from the city out hiking at camp.

    Agreed, the ‘knee to the groin’ is expected by most such criminals, and is not the best first thing to try. That is why a real self-defense/martial arts class teaches ‘starter strikes’ that serve to distract the attacker, after which you can knee (or kick) the groin, and when they double over, an elbow strike to the back of the neck finishes the job long enough for you to escape. You can deliver a second kick to the groin from the rear once they are down, just for extra insurance.

    Thanks very much for your time in addressing your points in the comments.

  • Larry Fields profile image

    Larry Fields 

    5 years ago from Northern California

    Hi Lizzy,

    I think that you've mentioned some very important common-sense safety measures. Common sense is not always available when we need it the most. That said, I have quibbles with two of your points. Some personal security platitudes are helpful; others are pure BS.

    3. Car keys as a defense weapon? Get real. Yes, have the keys out and ready to use for their intended purpose, rather than waiting until you're in the danger zone, before getting them out of your purse or pocket.

    If you want to 'weaponize' your keys, attach them to a wooden kubotan, which should fit nicely inside a purse.

    10. Quickie martial arts classes for women? Those classes are more about money-making and Security Theater, than about real security. The phony 'empowerment' from that class could easily get you killed. Ditto for the car key 'weapon'.

    If you see a suspicious character skulking in the shadows of the parking lot and he's giving you the 'evil eye', run like hell to a safe place!

    Carry a pair of sneakers in an extra large handbag. Before you exit the building, put them on, and put the dysfunctional hi-fashion shoes in the handbag.

    Some shopping malls have Security Guards. If you're feeling unsafe, you could request that a SG accompany you to your car. The worst case scenario: He could say no.

    If you come face-to-face with a real-life mugger, give him whatever he asks for. Always carry at least $20 in cash. Some muggers get very angry if you're not carrying money, and they have been known to kill for that very reason.

    In the cold Winter months, carry your credit card and drivers license in a money belt under your blouse or shirt. If you're wearing a jacket, he will not notice the slight bulge.

    Knee to the groin, anyone? Puhleeze! Everyone knows about that, including the mugger. He'll be prepared. What do you do for an encore?

    If you want to learn a lot more about personal security, please visit Marc MacYoung's website: He's the real deal.

  • PegCole17 profile image

    Peg Cole 

    5 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

    Personal safety is really important to remember in these times. People seem to be bolder that they were, perhaps out of desperation. You've provided a number of ways to be on the alert when getting into our cars.

  • sallybea profile image

    Sally Gulbrandsen 

    5 years ago from Norfolk

    Excellent advice, having grown up in South Africa one was always prepared for any eventuality - including not stopping at traffic lights at night (unbelievable but true), locking the car doors when you got in and making sure the windows were wound up, just in case someone stuck their hand and ripped your necklace off - that is, when you did stop at a traffic light or stop street! Yup I got the T shirt and I learned that it is better to be safe than sorry.

    Good advice, definitely worth sharing voted up, useful


  • Rhonda Lytle profile image

    Rhonda Lytle 

    5 years ago from Deep in the heart of Dixie

    This is awesome. I think we tend to forget that in today's world, everyone is vulnerable to attack at some point. I've, thankfully, never been accosted in a parking lot per say, but I've been confronted at the gas station more than once in Houston and in Galveston. It's a really scary situation. Just as you said, self defense classes to the rescue. I doubt I would be here now had I not had them so long ago. The only thing I would add is that one really needs to practice. It needs to be muscle memory for in such a situation you really don't have any time to think. That and be right with the man upstairs for him having your back is better than any class or weapon ever invented. Lastly, while it's old school, an aerosol can and a bic works really well if you just have to go there. God bless you for sharing this!

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    5 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hi there, Romanian!

    Thank you very much. I'm delighted you found these tips useful and I appreciate your comment.

  • Romanian profile image


    5 years ago from Oradea, Romania

    These tips are awesome, if everyone will respect these tips, nobody would be mugged in a parking lot. I think in every country police should teach people to do things like you said here.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    5 years ago from Oakley, CA

    @ vocalcoach--You are so correct; parking near lighting, while the best idea, is not always possible. If it were a sketchy area, I think that’s when I’d request an escort from the store’s security services!

    I’m glad you found the article useful; thanks so very much for the compliment! And for being the first to comment! ;-)

    (And I know I feel a lot less spooked since I have been taking karate lessons in the last 4 to 5 years!) ;)

    @ carolynkaye--Thanks! I’m glad you liked my suggestions. You make another good point about having a loud whistle on you, as well. I know that there are some, available for boaters at marine supply stores (and maybe outdoor suppliers, as well), that are loud enough that the sound will carry about half a mile. Thanks much for your input and the votes!

    @ bravewarrior--Thank you very much. I no longer even carry a purse; I use the belt pouch. I had my purse stolen once, (not by mugging, but by my own carelessness in setting it down and forgetting! DUH!!), but ever since then, I decided a belt pouch was smarter--it stays attached to me, my hands are always free, and no worries about setting it down and forgetting! I guess for me, that option is easier, since I don’t do dresses or dressing up; I’m a jeans and t-shirts gal, and my keys live on a snap ring on the belt loop of my jeans.

    @ mdscoggins--You are correct; if you can avoid being alone at night, that is the best option. But, even so, it pays to be alert and ready for action. Thanks so much for stopping by. I’m glad you liked the article.

    @ Nell Rose--Hi, Nell! Thank you very much! I agree--this is for any area you may be walking alone, not only parking lots, though they seem to have become notorious havens for criminals, at least in some areas. So good to see you, and glad you found the article useful. Thanks much for the vote and share!

    @ PurvisBobbi44--So true; body language is an important part of not becoming a victim! People who look stooped over, looking at the ground, unsure of themselves are almost “asking for it.” LOL at beating them with your purse! Quite a visual. Hee hee hee. Your policeman friend also gave good advice. I would never get out of my car to take off a note, but I would probably swipe it off with one hand as I got in. Failing that, hit the windshield washer, and that should get rid of it, as you drive off.

    Thanks very much for the tweet and pin! Cheers!

  • PurvisBobbi44 profile image

    Barbara Purvis Hunter 

    5 years ago from Florida


    This is very valuable information for anyone who shops or works at night. I worked overtime many times when I had to walk to my car in the dark.

    I had my keys in my right hand with the largest key sticking out to use as a weapon and if that did not work---I would beat them over the head with my heavy purse.

    I think my body language alerted them to stay away.

    Also, here is a tip from a policeman--He said never get out of your car again after entering and locking the door to take a message off your windshield---this is how a lot of people are tricked. I will drive off with notes an anything that gets in my way that is trying to harm me.

    Thanks for writing this one.

    Bobbi Purvis

    I will share with Twitter and pin it on my re-pin board.

  • Nell Rose profile image

    Nell Rose 

    5 years ago from England

    Great tips Lizzy! I don't drive, but I do do that with my keys! if I am walking across the grass to my house, and even up the alley near my house I put those keys pointed through my fingers! and great idea about getting in the passenger side too! nice one! voted up and shared, nell

  • mdscoggins profile image

    Michelle Scoggins 

    5 years ago from Fresno, CA

    Great article. I do follow most of those steps. Parking lots can really be dangerous anytime of the year. I try not to shop alone at night and especially not with my children. Even in decent areas there is the potential to being a victim. Thanks again for the reality check.

  • bravewarrior profile image

    Shauna L Bowling 

    5 years ago from Central Florida

    Excellent tips. I follow many of them, but should be more aware of the way I carry my purse. Thanx for the reminders, Lizzy!

  • carolynkaye profile image


    5 years ago from USA

    Good tips! It can be scary going out alone as a female after dark, even in what are considered 'safe' areas. I try to park close to the door and walk fast. A small, very loud safety whistle is good to carry too. Voted up and useful.

  • vocalcoach profile image

    Audrey Hunt 

    5 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.


    You've helped women everywhere to prepare for safe parking at night. I like your tip about getting the keys to the car out before leaving the shopping mall or area. It's not always possible to park near lighting. I've always been spooked when walking to my car at night.

    Thanks for keeping me safe and voted up and sharing. You're the best!


  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    5 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Thanks, Bill!

    I do know what you mean; it is why I wrote this. Every time I'm shopping, I see some form of people just not being aware of their surroundings. I'd say 90% of the time, it involves talking on their phones!

    Not only are they at risk of criminal activity, especially after dark, but they also fail to pay attention to things like the fact that they just walked right behind a vehicle already in motion, backing out of a spot! It's amazing more of them don't get flattened, given the number of inattentive drivers as well!

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 

    5 years ago from Olympia, WA

    Really a very important article. I've seen women do some very reckless things in parking lots, and I was always amazed that they made it to the store just can't be too careful these days.


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