According to statistics recently released by the SAPS, car hijackings have increased nationally by an alarming 14.2% in 2014/15. This increase has also been confirmed by Budget Insurance.
According to the SAPS, there were 12 773 reported car hijackings between 2014/15, compared to 11 180 in 2013/14 – an increase from 31 to 35 incidents per day, meaning that a car gets hijacked in South Africa once every 41 minutes.
Budget Insurance 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 are being followed, make a couple of false turns. If someone 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. Slowdown 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.
- 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.
There are also seven golden rules to follow if you are 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 and get away from the area as quickly as possible
- Don’t be a hero – your life is worth more than your car