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Vehicular Terror: The Easiest Blueprint To Create Mayhem

Avatar for Jodie Weston Jodie Weston  |  Updated: November 13, 2020
Vehicular Terror: The Easiest Blueprint To Create Mayhem

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Note: This is an article first published by BDS in 2017 but it is worth revisiting. 

In these days of smartphone distractions, you’re seeing more and more people oblivious to their surroundings. In the past, this might get you a bump on the head by walking into a lamp post. In today’s world, however, it could cost you your life.

The NYC vehicular attack that killed 8 and injured a number of others is just the latest in a number of incidents by the deranged, disgruntled, and politically motivated. Yet, being situationally aware could prevent you from becoming a victim of a future vehicular terror event.

Situational awareness involves understanding factors in your immediate vicinity that might represent a threat. I’m not talking about second-hand smoke; I’m talking about serious dangers that you can avoid with rapid action.

Vehicular terrorism is not new, with Israel the scene of multiple attacks in past years. It’s becoming more and more common in the West, however, with attacks in NYC, London, Nice, France, Berlin, and elsewhere. A Somali student used his car to run over several people at Ohio State University and then perpetrated a knife attack on those who, ironically, ran over to see if he was injured. Many similar events have occurred but rarely make the news.

Why vehicular terror?

Terror attacks are often associated with bombs, but making a bomb requires some expertise to assemble safely. Guns, the other preferred weapon, are difficult to come by in most countries other than the U.S. Owning or renting a vehicle, however, is easy. Trucks and cars can cause mass casualties if wielded as a weapon; obtaining one isn’t an act that evokes suspicion.

Early this year, an article titled “Just Terror Tactics” was published by the English-language ISIS magazine “Rumiyah”. It described which vehicles will cause the most damage and called for attacks on Western crowds. “It is a simple idea and there is not much involved in its preparation,” the article said. “All what is needed is the willingness to give one’s life for Allah.

The article goes on: “Pick your location and timing carefully. Go for the most crowded locations. Narrower spots are also better because it gives less chance for the people to run away. Avoid locations where other vehicles may intercept you…

“To achieve maximum carnage, you need to pick up as much speed as you can while still retaining good control of your vehicle in order to maximize your inertia and be able to strike as many people as possible in your first run.”

The writer also suggested attackers weld steel blades onto the front of an SUV: “They do not need to be extra sharp because with the speed of the truck at the time of impact, even a blunter edge would slice through bone very easily. You may raise the level of the blades as high as the headlights. That would make the blades strike your targets at the torso level or higher.”

These tactics represents the new blueprint among terrorists for causing mayhem. Few people pay much attention to traffic unless they’re driving a vehicle themselves or crossing the street. The speed at which a vehicle can accelerate and turn into a crowd leaves little reaction time. Therefore, the “success” rate of this type of terror event may surpass even a gunman’s ability to cause deaths and injuries.

I advocate for a constant state of “Yellow Alert” when in public spaces. By that, I mean a calm but vigilant observation of what’s happening around you. Look for anomalies in behavior that might warn you of nefarious intentions. For example, hopping up and down and screaming may be normal at a rock concert, but it’s an anomaly at Starbucks.

This attitude is useful, but it’s difficult to respond quickly enough to avoid an oncoming car or truck. When a vehicle moves erratically or leaves the normal pattern of traffic, it’s an anomaly that requires quick action. Mentally noting routes of escape whenever you’re in public will give you the best chance of escaping. Just as knowing the location of exits in a mall or theatre is good policy, a heightened awareness is now important in any public area near roadways.

For vehicular terrorists, the target will be crowds of people near the street. Their objective is mass casualties, and those pedestrians nearest the curb will bear the brunt of the attack. Consider walking on the fringe of a crowd away from the road to give yourself the most options. In the center, the masses, not your own good judgment, will dictate your movement.

Municipalities can protect their citizens from vehicular terrorism by constructing barriers known as “bollards” which stop vehicles from entering pedestrian areas. These can be seen outside many government buildings and airport terminals. Expanding their use to areas that attract crowds would be an important consideration for the future.

City Road Bollards

I’m not the only one thinking of how to deal with vehicular terror. The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security recently issued a release warning of vehicular terrorism and how to identify an imminent attack. The release acknowledges the time issues in reacting to such events, but includes the following things to look for:

  • Unusual modifications to vehicles, such as frontal reinforcement.
  • The purchase or rental of large or heavy-duty vehicles, especially if there is nervousness during the transaction, payment in cash, or lack of familiarity with the vehicle’s operations.
  • Commercial motor vehicles or heavy equipment being operated in unusual locations, such as particularly heavy pedestrian areas.
  • Attempts to approach areas closed to traffic, such as street festivals or farmers’ markets.
  • A vehicle operator’s apparent unfamiliarity with operating a commercial vehicle, such as trouble with gear shifting.

I’ll admit that the likelihood you’ll be in the path of a terrorist using a vehicle, or any other weapon, is very small. Panic isn’t the answer, but these are troubled times; the more situationally aware you are, the safer you’ll be.

Author Bio: Joe and Amy Alton are the authors of the 3 category #1 Amazon Bestseller “The Survival Medicine Handbook“.  See their articles in Backwoods Home, Survival Quarterly, and other great magazines as well as their website at The opinions voiced by Joe Alton, MD, and Amy Alton, ARNP. are their own and are not meant to take the place of seeking medical help from a qualified healthcare provider.

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7 Responses to “Vehicular Terror: The Easiest Blueprint To Create Mayhem”

  1. To GREG: I just read your very recent comment. Then looked back and saw the original article is from 2017. There are more and more things that I don’t discuss unless someone indicates that they might agree. I stay well away from controversy which means I keep my mouth closed 99.9% of the time. Yet, that too can be exhausting. I am wondering if you would contact me for discussion. Would appreciate. [email protected] Thanks for considering my request.

  2. why do we get so much opposition when we look at the people who cause the problems? how can we prevent someone from using a truck for violence? use gps! when a truck is rented have the address destinations on the rental application. it is punched into the computer and is fed to the truck. when it doesn’t go to its destinations an alert is sent. it can be located and if it is headed to a large gathering of people then it would alert the police. they could divert it well before it was able to be used. even a simple road work detour would take it away without them suspecting anything. detection is the starting point. even a foreign name on the rental form would start the process. drivers licenses with a different format would also help. it would keep them from voting as well.

    • What’s a foreign name? And what about domestic terrorists/white supremacists, with relatively “common” names, who are using vehicles to commit their terrorism?

    • “Abdul Mohammed Yabadabadoo” might be a foreign name, but easily substituted with an alias, Agree that we should do more against domestic terrorists like Antifa, black lives matter, and demonrats in general.

    • The left, the right and lots of others have used vehicles in acts. Muslims aren’t the only issue with vehicle attacks. Even then I didn’t fight for 20 years for some agency to flag anyone with a name they don’t like, even grandpa, for renting a truck or for anyone to tell me my destination for something I paid for. Thats not America and thats not how it works.

  3. When I was little you bike and walk against traffic so you can see the cars coming. Now you go qith the cars so you never know qhen a car is going to get you.

  4. Thank you Dr. Joe and Nurse Amy. It was wonderful to read your clear, concise, informative style. Thank you BDS for featuring these two professionals. Great article!

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