image: Itumeleng English.

Hijacking is a crime all too prevalent on South African roads. While much is being done to target organised syndicates marauding our roads, the first and most effective line of defence is awareness.

Most hijackings take place in people’s drive ways, at traffic lights, post offices, outside schools or when vehicles are stopped on the side of the road. More aggressive syndicates will force cars off the road depending on how desperate they are to get their hands on a vehicle.

“Hijackers will often research their victims’ behaviour thoroughly before making their move, and being more streetwise in terms of what to look out for is our first port of recourse,” says Gary Ronald, Head of Public Affairs at the AA.

The following tips are simple ways to ensure you are more prepared in the event of being a hijack target:

Be aware of your surroundings as you approach your house. Often we switch to autopilot, taking the same route day in and day out. Change your route and check your rear-view mirror for strange cars following you. Hijackers may also be waiting for you, so be aware of the different vehicles parked in your area at different times of the day. If you feel threatened, do a drive by and call in for protection. Other precautionary measures such as ensuring that your driveway is well lit and that you have clear lines of communication with your neighbours are simple ways of protecting yourself.

It’s best to practise safe driving as a habit so that it becomes second nature, with awareness of your surroundings being tantamount for your protection. Locking your doors should be as second nature as fastening your seatbelt. Leaving a 3cm gap in your windows is a great precaution against smash and grabs as this reduces the tension and may prevent the glass from breaking. If you are stopping behind another vehicle, leave at least half a vehicle length in front of your vehicle to allow you some manoeuvring space should you need to make an escape.

If you can, try not to drive alone at night and if you are a woman, a great trick is to keep a cap in your boot to wear as a disguise. -Star Motoring