From the Concealed Carry website, Web Only Articles:
Places Not to Go
by J. Terry Stewart
When we elect to carry a firearm we are acknowledging that one day we may find ourselves in a position where it is necessary to use it. In that case, we do what we believe is required. Few, however, would argue that in a gunfight, the best place to be is somewhere else. Every sizable town has areas known for drugs, crime and the gathering of less than upstanding citizens. Being intelligent people we avoid those areas.
Our lives today are hectic and complex. Generally speaking, we would never knowingly put ourselves into a dangerous situation. The possibility of finding ourselves in one, however, confronts us on a daily basis, often without our being aware of it. You visit the ATM on a regular basis but have you ever considered the whole picture? Look at the shape of the structure and the accompanying landscaping. Are there places where a bad guy could hide and wait until you've collected your cash? Once you insert your card, do you scan the surroundings or are you focused on completing the transaction? A typical visit to an ATM probably doesn't take more than a minute or two. Given that minute or two, how far away could the bad guy hide and still get to you before you leave?
[Related discussion: Beware of bad guys!]
In conjunction with this, we also need to be aware of the fact that the nature of some areas change depending upon the time of day. One ATM that I use frequently during the day I avoid completely at night. The neighborhood has a very different dynamic at night than it does during the day. If I find myself in need of a cash infusion in the evening, I will drive out of my way and use a machine that is less convenient but one at which I feel more secure. As we all know, there are no guarantees that anyplace will be absolutely safe. I am no less vigilant at the second machine but I do believe that I am less likely to find myself in a bad situation there.
[Related discussion: Risky places to swipe your debit card]
Think about your local 24/7 convenience store. There is a reason that the police refer to them as "stop and robs." If I see people hanging around who set off my bad guy radar I'll drive a few hundred yards farther down the road and stop at the next place. If the doors and windows are all covered with advertising posters I will not even consider doing business there. Establishments which sell adult beverages (i.e., liquor stores) seem to be particularly prone to doing this. It is very difficult to find one where you can actually see what's going on inside as you pull into the parking lot.
[Related discussion: Convenience store / gas station survival]
How often do you use the drive-through lane at your favorite fast food place? I used to compare going inside and ordering versus using the drive through lane. It seemed to me that, most of the time, the drive through was quicker. Then one day I looked at my situation; wallet out, cash in hand, hemmed in by the vehicles ahead of and behind me and often with a curb preventing me from pulling out of line. Even though it is an inconvenience, I rarely use the drive through lane any more. When I do, it is only at specific places where I am not corralled by curbs. I also try to control the distance between my car and the one in front of me. If I can see the bottoms of his rear tires I have enough room to pull out, if necessary.
[Related discussion: Attacked while in your car]
Similarly, when stopped at an intersection or stoplight, try to be in one of the outside lanes, if possible. As above, if you can see the tires of the car ahead of you, you probably have a way out. We spend so much time in our cars that it is easy to focus on our sandwich, the radio, hair, cosmetics, the meeting you're going to or a million other things when we should still be taking in that which is happening around us. While we certainly cannot stop driving we must also take care to ensure that our vehicle does not become some kind of mental safe haven.
[Related discussion: Carjacking]
My family teases me constantly because I never look for the closest parking place in the lot. I park farther away where I can have as few cars near us as possible. Both going in and coming out of the store, this makes it a lot easier to determine if someone is heading in our direction. If the parking lot is small or crowded I will back into the parking space. If I need to get out in a hurry, it is much easier and quicker to pull straight out rather than having to back up.
[Related discussion: Parking lot awareness]
When I was 16, I was driving down the road one day. A truck threw a stone and cracked my windshield. I got home, told my mother what happened and then listened while she proceeded to chew me out. When I asked what I could possibly have done to avoid the stone, she said "You shouldn't have been there in the first place!" The fact is, sometimes we can avoid it and sometimes we can't. We do, however, need to consider the possibilities and do what we can to put the odds in our favor.
[Related discussion: The disadvantages of the defender]