Publications & Resources

The Threats Of Terrorist Vehicular Ramming:
Attacks And Prevention Measures

By Dr. Joshua Sinai

Firearms, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and knives have long been the weapons of choice for terrorists, but in what has become one of their latest warfare tactics motor vehicles are being weaponized as their instrument for ramming attacks against pedestrians. In this tactic, trucks, vans or cars are intentionally driven into public crowds, sometimes over long stretches of road before the attacks are terminated, usually through crashes.

In some of these incidents, the attackers’ violence continues when they flee their stopped vehicles and use knives to inflict further damage on the nearby pedestrians.

This type of “vehicle ramming attack” (VRA) terrorism is defined as utilizing a motor vehicle to deliberately ram into people to kill and wound them, or to cause significant property damage, as part of their extremist political objectives. Both civilians and military/law enforcement personnel are targeted in such attacks. This tactic differs from employing car bombs in which vehicles are used as platforms for detonating IEDs in an attack. In the United States, for example, recent incidents in which terrorists attempted to detonate a car bomb in a public place included Faisal Shahzad’s unsuccessful attack on May 1, 2010 in Times Square, where the explosives in his sport utility vehicle (SUV) had failed to detonate, and Anthony Warner’s December 25, 2020 detonating of explosives in his recreational vehicle in downtown Nashville, TN, which severely damaged the nearby buildings.

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