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Have you ever heard that the average person swallows seven spiders a year while sleeping? Or what about the tale of the man who meets a woman at a bar and later wakes up missing a kidney? We remember urban legends because our brains are remarkable at holding onto stories that instill fear for our safety. But urban legends aren’t always harmless: Sometimes, they cause chaos when people take them seriously. 

That’s the case with a tale involving wires tied to car door handles. In fact, it has made many people unnecessarily call the police. 

Urban legends involving cars

The world is full of urban legends about myriad topics, and many relate to cars. One such story that many people still believe is that those stick figure decals on cars’ windows make families the targets of sex traffickers. Supposedly, TikTok and other social media spread these viral rumors recently, and the fear-mongering has grabbed people’s attention. 

Another urban legend that many people have probably heard before concerns flashing your headlights to remind other drivers to turn on their lights or turn off their high beams. People have spread a rumor about gangs driving around at night with their car lights off to lure other drivers into flashing their lights at them. Once someone does, these rumored gang members supposedly tail that car and attack the occupants in a deadly gang initiation rite. 

Despite this rumor existing since the 1990s, there are no records of this actually occurring. But some drivers still avoid flashing their lights at oncoming cars because this legend has implanted itself so firmly in their minds. 

The story about wires on car door handles

wire car door handle
Don’t panic if you see a wire tied to your car door handle | Nadine DeMarco

Another urban legend that has led to many headaches for emergency responders: Wires on car door handles mean the vehicle’s occupants are targets for sex traffickers. Like the stick-figure-decal rumor, this one also originated on TikTok and went viral. In one TikTok video, a man claims sex traffickers attach a wire or zip tie to a car door handle to distract the victim while trying to remove it. This allows the criminals time to swoop in and kidnap the victim. 

But according to iHeartRadio, there haven’t been any reports of this actually happening. Sex traffickers tend to use computers to lure victims or target people they know. So if you see a wire or zip tie on your car door, don’t panic. Know that it’s probably a harmless prank, and avoid calling the police.

However, if you still feel uneasy upon seeing a wire tied on your car door handle, wait to remove it until you’re in a safer location. There’s nothing wrong with being cautious when something seems amiss. 

How you can stay safer in parking lots

Despite the false narratives surrounding these urban legends, parking lots can be unsafe for women and vulnerable people. One of the best ways to protect yourself from offenders or car-related accidents is by staying alert. This doesn’t mean you have to stress out and look at everyone with suspicion, but it does mean you should stay alert and off your phone. 

It can also be helpful to park directly under a light at night. Doing so deters would-be attackers and makes it easier for you to spot anything sketchy.

Finally, locking your car doors immediately upon getting inside your vehicle can keep you safer while you start your car and pull up your navigation system. It also prevents people from getting into your car uninvited. 


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