Johannesburg - Recent police statistics reveal that car hijackings have increased by a concerning 14.3 percent in South Africa since 2015 and by 55 percent over the past four years.
Insurance company Dialdirect says these statistics mirror its own, showing that the majority of hijackings take place in Gauteng, followed by KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape.
It offers the following practical tips to avoid becoming a hijacking statistic:
- 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.
- Stay alert. Always be aware of your surroundings and look out for anything suspicious.
- Be confident and focused. Limit distractions, such as checking or talking on your cellphone, when walking to or from your car.
- 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.
- Mix things up. Vary the routes you take to make it less predictable for criminals.
- Check the tail. If you suspect you’re being followed, make a couple of false turns. If somebody is still following you, drive to the nearest police station.
- Allow space. Leave enough room between you and the car in front of you to avoid being boxed in.
- Savvy stopping. Slow down in such a way that the light is green by the time you reach a traffic light, especially late at night - this avoids you coming to a complete stop and reduces your risk of becoming a target.
- Pick your parking spot. Always park in a safe, well-lit area.
- Use panic buttons. If you sense you are in danger, use the panic button on your tracking device if it has one.
- Go electric. Many hijackings happen just 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, rather than waiting for the self-timer. This limits a criminal’s window of opportunity.
- Know your neighbour. Knowing your neighbours and the cars they drive well help you to better identify suspicious individuals and vehicles.
- Keep an SOS phone. Keep a spare, small and cheap phone loaded with airtime and emergency contacts (including your insurer) handy so that you can call for help even if your car and valuables are stolen.
There are also seven golden rules to follow if you are confronted by a hijacker:
- Remain calm.
- Don’t argue.
- Don’t make sudden gestures.
- Avoid eye contact but try to remember what the carjacker looked like by identifying and remembering special features..
- Comply with the hijacker’s 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.