A Spy Primer on Getaway Vehicles

Greetings Everyday Spy,

CIA officers break international laws to save American lives. 

That’s the job and we make no apologies for it. 

In the United States, we are considered the ‘good guys’. But in the eyes of the world, we are villians. And the biggest difference between CIA operatives and all the collective bad-guys in the world is one thing: training.

CIA officers receive elite training in everything from hand-to-hand combat to covert communication. 

We learn how to steal and smuggle secrets never intended for American eyes. And even though the skills we learn are designed with criminal intent, they also serve to keep us safe… especially when we find ourselves being followed by surveillance, aggressors, or foreign operatives.

When you are being followed, the human brain has two base instincts: Fight or Flight. 

When the time comes to run, good-guys need to know the best getaway vehicles. Whether you are escaping a terrorist attack, ditching a stalker, or bugging out of a natural disaster, here is a spy’s primer on the best (and worst!) getaway vehicles for you to choose from.

 

  1. Ditching a Tail

In today’s world of digital tracking and satellite imagery, don’t underestimate the likelihood of an old fashioned tail. Kidnappers, rapists, child molesters and muggers routinely tail their targets before taking action. Stalkers can range from peeping tom to physical threat, resulting in significant anxiety for those seeking safety. Even outside of the criminal world, human surveillance is considered a high-demanded service among private investigators. 

When the time comes that you start to see a familiar form over your shoulder, look to these tried and true getaway options:

            Bicycle: 

Bicycles are a cornerstone in the spy game. Found everywhere in the world and totally independent of a fuel source, bicycles offer rapid changes in speed and direction across multiple types of terrain. 

Because most human surveillance executes on foot or in a car, they are extremely limited in their ability to follow a target on a bike. Further, surveillance is often forced to break off or simply gets left behind when targets use a bicycle to move from place to place. 

If you need to lose a tail quickly or frequently, grab a helmet and a bike lock and enjoy the power of pedaling.  

            Subway: 

Subways are the bane of surveillance. Whether you are being followed by one person or multiple people, a crowded subway is sure to drive your tail mad. 

The chief goal of surveillance is to follow you without losing you. The more crowded an area gets, the harder it is for your tail to track you. In a subway, the chaos of multiple doors, multiple stops, and multiple people moving in all directions means it is very difficult to maintain line-of-sight to the target. 

While most of us try to avoid a rush-hour subway commute, it can be the perfect way to lose an unwanted stalker.

 

  1. Stealthy Exit

People are unpredictable. Public violence, hostile co-workers, gawking neighbors or incessant paparazzi make it challenging to quickly and quietly get away from an escalating situation.

Parents, employers, and public servants all seek to maintain control over their environment. And even while we work to maintain peace and order in our homes, businesses and communities, there are others working to undermine our efforts. 

A stealthy exit before chaos strikes can ensure you and your loved ones stay safe.

            Better by Foot: 

Spies learn early in training to, ‘rely on what you are wearing’. Most people intrinsically understand this concept to mean clothing, a weapon, or cash. But in spycraft, where escape and evasion are always at the top of our minds, we think first of footwear. 

When a disgruntled employee attacks your workplace or your family becomes the center of unwanted public attention, remember that your feet can carry you anywhere you need to go. On foot you can access any exit, move fluidly through multiple environments, and travel in any direction you choose. 

Unrestricted by traffic lights, traffic patterns, or traffic schedules, your feet give you supreme control to execute a discreet exit and get to a safe distance.

            Rental Car: 

In some environments, travel by foot is unrealistic or even dangerous. Desert conditions, freezing conditions or dense urban environments can greatly limit movement on foot. 

When a foot-bound getaway isn’t available, the next best option for a discreet departure is a rental car. Rental vehicles are available everywhere, consist of common vehicle models in common colors, and have no overt, immediate connection to you. 

The best way to leverage a rental vehicle as a getaway option is to plan in advance. If you know you are firing an unstable employee, taking the stand at a public hearing, or picking-up a loved one after a newsworthy event, plan to use a rental vehicle rather than your personal vehicle.

Even if hostile actors or unwanted press are keeping an eye out for your personal vehicle, you can slip in and out of a location easily with an unassuming rental vehicle.

 

  1. Hot Pursuit

No getaway vehicle primer would be complete without a discussion about how to handle a genuine hot pursuit. 

To be clear, if you ever find yourself in a hot pursuit scenario it means something has gone very wrong. For professional intel officers, hot pursuit means that you have utterly failed in your mission. When law enforcement, drug cartels, or military forces are chasing you down, the game is very close to over. 

That said, if you are at end-game, make it count!

            Sedan: 

There is a reason police officers still drive Crown Victoria sedans. A wide wheel base, powerful engine, and plenty of mass make sedans a choice vehicle for escaping in hot pursuit. 

Most people assume hot pursuit happens at high speeds. They are wrong. Hot pursuits actually occur at mid-range speeds but always include a lead vehicle and a chase vehicle. 

The lead vehicle’s goal is to break away just long enough to give the driver a chance to ditch the car and go ‘black’ – disappearing into their surroundings. A good sedan can handle the bumps, bounces, and direct hits needed to win a hot pursuit and get the driver the space they need fade away.

            Dually Pick-up Truck: 

Similar to a sedan, a strong second choice for hot pursuit getaway vehicle is a dually pick-up truck. Recognizing that power beats speed in any hot pursuit, few vehicles can match the punch and toughness of a dually. 

As an added bonus, dually trucks have the benefit of extra traction in the back end that can protect against a mid-chase PiT maneuver. These trucks can be easily outfitted with additional fuel tanks that give them the advantage of endurance over a fleet of single-tank chase vehicles.

 

  1. Death Trap

For those curious to know the worst choices for a getaway vehicle, I have you covered! 

The list of bad choices is long and includes many of the vehicles featured in movie and TV chase scenes. Sorry to say, a shiny power boat or low-drag wing suit is unlikely to help you in a real getaway situation. Rather than focus on moderately bad choices, though, I dedicate this section to the absolute worst choices.

          Uber: 

I love the convenient app and cost-saving value of Uber as much as the next spy, but ridesharing is not the tool to use if you need to evacuate an area quickly or quietly. 

From the moment you log into the app to the time you rate your driver, everything about Uber has you connected; connected to cell networks, bluetooth, geo-coordinates and metadata. 

A quasi-refined tail wouldn’t even have to leave their windowless panel van to follow you if you chose Uber as your escape choice. They could just track the end point of the Uber by monitoring any one of the dozen outgoing digital signatures associated with the car that picks you up.

          Motorcycle: 

I know I’m breaking hearts with this one, but fact must rule over fiction. Motorcycles of all varieties in all situations make atrocious getaway vehicles. 

Small fuel tanks, loud engines and mechanical complications aside, motorcycles are extremely unforgiving on mistakes. And the one thing you want to account for during a getaway is making mistakes. 

A wrong turn, loss of balance, or bit of loose gravel could spell disaster on a motorcycle. Under pressure to gain distance from a pursuant, your fine motor skills start to deteriorate. When that happens, you need raw muscle memory to get you through. 

Some people call motorcycles death traps by default. I disagree. But as a getaway vehicle with little/no margin for error, they are almost certainly going to lose you the chase.

 

This is your primer – your starting point – for getaway vehicles. 

Drive safe. Be aware. And stay tuned for more.

Godspeed, #EverydaySpy

Author: Andrew Bustamante, Founder of www.EverydaySpy.com. Andrew is a former covert CIA Intelligence officer, decorated US Air Force Combat Veteran, and respected Fortune 500 senior advisor. Learn more from Andrew on his Podcast (The Everyday Espionage Podcast) and by following @EverydaySpy on your favorite social media platform.

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