South Africans warned of new hijacking trend at fast food outlets

File picture: Max Kleinen via Unsplash.

File picture: Max Kleinen via Unsplash.

Published Oct 13, 2022


Johannesburg - It’s meant to be all about fast food convenience at its best, but the experience of ordering food at a drive-through facility has become a nightmare for some South African motorists.

According to security firm Fidelity ADT, a new hijacking trend has emerged in which criminals target motorists while they’re buying food at drive-through establishments.

Drivers are literally being sandwiched in at these facilities, as Fidelity ADT communications head Charnel Hattingh explains.

“Typically, as you get to the front of the queue, armed suspects from the vehicle in front of you get out and attempt to hijack your vehicle. There are usually two cars involved, the vehicle behind you blocks in your car when you try and reverse.”

Hijackings, in general, have increased this year, with the most recent crime stats released by the SAPS showing a 14% year-on-year rise in the latest quarter.

This means that motorists should be more vigilant in every possible situation, and if you’re still keen on that greasy drive-through treat, take heed of the following advice supplied by ADT Fidelity.

  • Keep your bag in the boot - have your cash and card on hand for quick payment.
  • Only use well-frequented drive-throughs and avoid any retail establishments which are dimly lit or isolated at night.
  • Try and only order food at peak times when patronage is at its highest.
  • Keep all your windows and doors closed while waiting for your order.
  • If possible, don’t take the children with you to the drive-through, as they can be distracting.
  • Whilst waiting, check your rear-view mirrors and do not be distracted by music or /cell phones.
  • If you suspect you could be a victim of a hijacking, start pressing your hooter a number of times. Generally, hijackers do not like this kind of attention which draws interest.
  • If you have a panic button on your tracking device, now would be the time to activate it. Better to be safe than sorry.
  • If your children are with you, the eldest child should always be seated behind the driver and the younger child to the left – both in the back seat.
  • If you are hijacked while your children are in the car, climb out of the vehicle slowly and move to the back door directly behind the driver’s door. Place one foot firmly in the car, on the floor behind the driver’s seat, as you lean across to retrieve the youngest child. The eldest child will probably cling to you, and you can get both children out of the car at once. Remember to stay as calm as possible.

According to vehicle tracking specialist Tracker, vehicle hijackings are most likely to occur between 4pm and 8pm, with Thursday and Tuesday being the riskiest days.

How to avoid becoming a victim

Always remember that your life is worth more than your car, and take heed of the following tips supplied by the National Hijacking Prevention Academy and Dialdirect.

Make sure you’re not being followed

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.

Basic housekeeping rules

These include knowing your neighbours and what cars they drive, keeping your driveway free of places where perpetrators can hide and ensure the area is well-lit. Also, be sure to lock your doors when you’re driving.

How to safely enter your property

If your gate is automatic, stop in the road parallel to the gate, if possible, to give yourself an escape route. Once the gate is fully open, turn in and stop on the other side of the gate and wait for it to close. You want to avoid being followed into your property, as a hijacking could turn into a house robbery.

If you don’t have an automatic gate, you need to check it’s safe before exiting your vehicle and Dialdirect advises leaving the key in the ignition, but with the car door closed, so that a perpetrator doesn’t have to approach you in order to take the vehicle.

Plan your route

Plan your route carefully to avoid driving at unsafe times, through unsafe areas, or coming to a stop / driving slower, and thus becoming an easier target. Alternate your habits and routes to avoid being a predictable target.

Be smart with how you stop

Motorists are advised to approach red traffic lights slowly so that a complete stop might be avoided. When stopping behind a vehicle at a traffic light or stop sign, make sure you can see its rear tyres touch the road surface. This will make it more difficult to be boxed in.

What if you get bumped from behind?

If your vehicle is bumped lightly from behind, don’t pull over immediately. If the bump wasn’t hard enough to have damaged the vehicle, and you feel that there might be a threat, indicate to the vehicle behind you to follow you to a place of safety, such as a petrol station or police station.

Watch out for bogus police

If you’re followed by a vehicle with a blue light, it’s best to reduce your speed, switch on emergency lights and indicate that they must follow you to a safe place, such as a police station (your intentions must be very clear and understandable). Do not, under any circumstances, drive home.

If you are confronted by a hijacker:

  • Put your hands up immediately to show that you’ve surrendered.
  • Don’t speak too fast, and do not make sudden movements.
  • Do not lose your temper, threaten or challenge the hijacker, and do exactly as you’re told.
  • Don’t resist, especially if the hijacker is armed. Surrender your vehicle and move away.
  • Be sure not to reach for your purse or valuables. Leave everything in the vehicle.
  • Don’t make eye contact with the hijacker. They may perceive this behaviour as a threat.

How to exit the vehicle

Use your left hand to unlock the door, and use the same hand to undo the seatbelt and put the car out of gear. With an automatic vehicle, just pull up the handbrake. When getting out of your vehicle, turn your body sideways, lift your shoulders and use your hands and arms to cover the head / neck area. Move away from the vehicle immediately. Keep your hands still and visible to the hijacker to give them assurance of your passive consent.

What if your child is in the vehicle?

If you have a child in the vehicle, you may want to reach through between the seats to retrieve the child, or if you don’t feel comfortable doing this, you may exit the vehicle and open the door behind you immediately. Step into the vehicle with your right leg and foot and lean across to retrieve your child.