OPPORTUNISTIC criminals rely on the element of surprise to strike at motorists. The best way to prevent a smash-and-grab from happening to you is to be alert.“Smash-and-grabs happen across most cities and end up turning what should be a pleasant drive into a nightmare.“Just recently in Cape Town, a video was shared of a motorist being robbed when he was stuck in slow-moving traffic. “And in Gauteng, warnings are issued regularly about hot spots where smash-and-grabs are common occurrences,” said Charnel Hattingh, national marketing and communications manager at Fidelity ADT.Would-be robbers are normally on the lookout for distracted drivers with clearly visible valuable items that are easy to access, said Hattingh. “They are looking for something that they can grab easily and quickly before running off while the driver is too shocked to respond. Laptops and handbags on front seats are popular items that have been stolen in smash-and-grabs.”What can you do to protect yourself?“The two most important things to do are to always pay attention to your surroundings and to never leave valuable items in clear sight of any passing pedestrian. “Criminals don’t need a lot of time to strike. If you look at the video of the recent incident in Cape Town, for example, you will see how incredibly quickly the whole incident happened,” said Hattingh. FURTHER TIPS AND ADVICE• Leave valuable items in the boot or store under the seats.• If you find yourself in an area where traffic is moving very slowly (for example, because of congestion or due to a defective traffic light), make sure you keep your eyes open for any pedestrian movement around your vehicle.• Avoid distractions. Your focus should be on the safe operation of your vehicle and nothing else. The phone call and the cigarette can wait.• Lock your doors and keep the windows closed.• Avoid sitting in your car for a prolonged period of time (along the side of the road or perhaps in a parking garage) where you potentially become an easy target, while concentrating on a phone call or something else that distracts your attention from your surroundings. • Leave a gap between you and the car in front of you to give you room to escape (i.e. drive away from any incident), if anything should happen.• Consider installing a special window safety film. It is usually tinted so that no one can see into the car, while it also prevents the windows from shattering. “The key point to remember in all of this, is the need for vigilance.“You can make a massive difference in avoiding a smash-and-grab by simply paying attention to what is happening around you. “If you see anything suspicious, make sure you report it to the closest police station or other law enforcement as soon as possible, so that fellow motorists can also be protected,” said Hattingh. — Supplied.