6 Most Ridiculous Car-Related Urban Legends

Time and time again, urban legends are made to revolve around driving, approaching a car alone, or other drivers on the road. Some scary, some simply rumors gone too far, these urban legends successfully arouse suspicion in the common driver who suddenly sees their car as a vehicle for danger. Urban legends are commonly retold from person to person or included in chain mail emails. Over time, the details of the stories eerily match the details of your hometown and include people you distantly know, but this is simply what perpetuates the urban legend. Don't let these stories scare you away from taking the driver's seat. While crimes happen every day, there's no reason to live in fear or see your car as a gateway to criminal activity. If you are a safe driver by buckling up, obeying traffic signs, and being considerate of other drivers, there's no reason to suspect that these urban legends will become a reality.

  1. Don't Flash Your Headlights

    The myth goes that gang initiates in your particular city have taken to driving around in cars at night with their lights off. As a good samaritan, your initial reaction is to flash your lights at them, prompting them to turn their lights on. Instead, the gang members choose you as their prey, corner you or follow you home, and kill you for your good deed. This urban legend has been floating around since the early '90s, and has kept many otherwise friendly drivers from the common courtesy of flashing their lights. The closest this urban legend comes to reality was reported in 1992 in Stockton, California. A school teacher signaled down a car full of teens to try to tell them that their lights were off, but the teenagers misinterpreted her hand signal for an insult and shot her. While this may not be comforting, it was an isolated incident and never involved gang initiation.

  2. Get Out of the Car

    This urban legend is said to have originated in Sarasota, Florida, but like any myth, has no substantiated evidence to prove it occurred. An elderly women leaves a grocery store to discover that four men are at her car, the doors to the vehicle open. Acting fast, the woman removes a pistol from her purse and threatens the men, who immediately scatter. It is only when she is struggling to put the keys into the ignition that she realizes that her car is parked several spaces away in the lot and she has accidentally car-jacked the men. In some retellings, the woman goes as far to report her error to the police station, where the men have done likewise.

  3. Unmarked Cop Car

    This story is regularly told from the viewpoint of 19-year-old Lauren, who is driving on an unlit dirt road on the outskirts of your given city. Lauren is pulled over by an unmarked police car, but is suspicious and calls the local police department to confirm that the cop is indeed legitimate. As it turns out, he isn't, and Lauren is instructed to keep driving. Shortly thereafter, the real police intercept the unmarked car, which belongs to a known rapist. There are several details of the story that don't seem particularly sound, like how Lauren has the time to call the police department in the moment in which the rapist is pulling her over, or where her suspicions even began. However, this story has done quite a bit to instill fear in the general public toward unmarked police cars. If you're truly concerned about the legitimacy of an unmarked police car, pulling over in a well-lit, populated area is best. Although this urban legend could theoretically happen, it's no reason to fear your local public safety officials.

  4. The Ankle Slasher

    In this urban myth, a young woman (and it is always a woman) goes to get in her car and has her ankles slashed by someone beneath the vehicle, who then takes advantage of her. The woman is helpless because the offender has slashed her Achilles’ tendons, preventing her from running away. In many versions, the cutting is done by a gang initiate and it takes place in a mall parking lot. The slasher rapes or robs the victim, or steals her car. When this urban legend infiltrates a city, it can spread panic, as it has often supposedly happened to a "friend of a friend." While rape and robbery do occur from time to time in parking lots, it is the ankle slashing detail that makes this tale particularly frightening and also completely false.

  5. Someone in the Back Seat

    The tale is of a woman driving alone, always at night. After some time, she notices a car following uncomfortably close behind her. This car mimics her every move, speeding up when necessary and taking all the same turns. Oddly, he keeps flashing his lights. The woman, nervous, evades the car as much as she can while speeding home, but never manages to lose him. And while she sprints from the car into her home, the driver rolls down his window and yells, "Someone's in the back seat!" As it turns out, the man following her was flashing his lights so that the killer in the backseat would duck down. He did this every time he saw the killer raise a butcher knife. There are about a dozen different versions of this story, some in which the woman is diverted by a gas station attendant who notices the killer. While it encourages us to be aware of our surroundings, it has perpetuated as a mere myth since the 1960s.

  6. The Vanishing Hitchhiker

    No list of urban legends would be complete without at least one paranormal occurrence. In this story, a man picks up a hitchhiker in some distinguished clothing, usually a young girl in what appears to be a prom dress. He complies with her request to be driven home after he is supplied with a specific address, but when he reaches the destination, the girl has mysteriously disappeared from the back seat. Befuddled, the man knocks on the door of the home he meant to drop her off at and explains the situation to the man that lives there. The man at the door, distraught, explains that the hitchhiker described was his daughter, but that she died some years ago on prom night. Like any urban legend, finishing touches are made to include specific roads took, the address of the house, and other local details, but the fact remains that this story is a ghost story.

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