Statistics recently released by the police show that carjackings have increased by a concerning 14.3% since last year and by 55% over the past four years.
Bianca de Beer of Dialdirect insurance company said: “Our claims statistics note a similar upward trend in hijackings.
“Our statistics mirror those of the SAPS and show that the majority of hijackings take place in Gauteng, followed by KwaZulu-Natal and then the Western Cape.”
With that in mind, follow these practical tips to avoid becoming a hijacking statistic. Some of them are common sense, some we have read about before, but we can never be too safe.
1: Plan your route
Use a GPS to avoid getting lost and becoming an easy target. Inform the people/person at your destination about your estimated time of arrival.
2: Stay alert
Always be aware of your surroundings and look out for anything suspicious.
3: Be confident and focused
Limit distractions, such as checking or talking on your cellphone while walking to or from your car.
4: Lock up
Avoid driving with windows open, keep the doors locked and lock valuables out of sight. Install smash-and-grab window protection if possible
5: Mix things up
Vary the routes you take to make it less predictable for criminals.
6: Check the tail
If you suspect you are being followed, make a couple of false turns. If someone is still following you, drive to the nearest police station.
7: Allow space
Leave enough room between you and the car in front of you to avoid being boxed in.
8: Be savvy with your stopping
Slowdown in such a way that the light is green by the time you reach a traffic light, especially late at night — this way you avoid coming to a complete stop and reduce your risk of becoming a target.
9: Pick your parking spot
Always park in a safe, well-lit area. Be aware of suspicious people loitering about.
10: Use panic buttons
If you sense you’re in danger, use the panic button on the tracking device – if it has one.
11: Go electric
Many hijackings happen as you are entering or leaving your home. Having a well-lit, shrub-free driveway and an electric gate (that can switch to a battery during power failures) can help you get in and out safely. Use the remote to close the gate behind you. This limits a criminal’s window of opportunity.
12: Know your neighbour
Knowing your neighbours and the cars they drive will help you to better identify suspicious individuals and vehicles in your neighbourhood.
13: Keep an SOS phone
Keep handy a spare small and cheap phone loaded with airtime and emergency contacts (including your insurer) so that you can call for help even if your car and valuables are stolen.
14: Keep your car in tiptop shape
A broken-down car makes you a target for would-be hijackers who will settle for a raid of your valuables.
15: Finally, try and remember these seven golden rules should you ever have the misfortune of being confronted by a hijacker
- Remain calm
- Do not argue
- Do not make sudden gestures
- Avoid eye contact but try to remember what the carjacker looked like by identifying and remembering special features
- Comply with the hijackers’ directions (within reason)
- Try to get away from the area as quickly as possible
- Don’t be a hero — your life is worth more than your car.