Hijackings affect South Africans immensely and are still a huge concern.
A recent study done by Statistics South Africa Victim of Crime Survey revealed more than 30 000 South Africans were victims of a vehicle hijacking in 2016/2017, which adds up to 85 hijackings on a daily basis.
“Hijackers are pouncing on unsuspecting vehicle owners wherever the opportunity presents itself,” says Warwick Scott-Rodger, executive head of Dialdirect.
“There’s a multimillion-rand industry where anything from a meticulously planned hijacking, to more opportunistic hits, is just another day at the office.
“South African vehicle owners have to take this very seriously and be thoroughly prepared.”
According to Dialdirect’s crime statistics, these are the top five spots where hijackings take place.
Vehicles hijacked at fuel stations
Drivers of vehicles are often approached by attackers at fuel stations while filling up with fuel. They usually approach the driver from his or her blind-spot and use force to get the driver out of the vehicle.
Vehicle owners are approached at social spots by strangers who try to befriend them and later spike their drinks, take their keys and make off with their vehicle.
Blue light robberies
Vehicle owners are pulled over by imposters posing as traffic or police officials – often in unmarked vehicles.
Once drivers are pulled over, they are overpowered and their vehicles are taken.
Vehicles are taken in house robberies
Drivers are overpowered in their homes and vehicles are taken along with other possessions.
Vehicles hijacked after the driver is followed home
Attackers follow vehicles home, after which owners are boxed in and hijacked in their driveway.
Assailants often wait for the owner to enter the property and then block the security gate from closing behind them.
To try and avoid being a victim of hijackers, here are a few tips to keep you safe on the roads.
- Always be aware of your surroundings and look out for anything suspicious.
- Remain vigilant while filling up with fuel, especially at night. Keep your doors locked and windows closed while filling up, and only open the window when it is time to pay. Keep an eye out for suspicious movement, especially in your vehicle’s blind-spot.
- Don’t trust someone who offers you a drink out of the blue, or suggests you accompany them to a different venue for a drink. Don’t be fooled by the appearance of people who approach you and maintain a healthy sense of scepticism – hijackers often don’t look like criminals.
- If you’re at all unsure of whether the vehicle trying to pull you over is actually an official police vehicle, remain calm, switch on your vehicle’s hazard lights to show that you are prepared to cooperate and drive to the nearest police station.
- Be vigilant while at home and keep security gates locked to prevent assailants gaining entry to your home. Ensure you’re aware of where your alarm panic buttons are and that your security company will respond when it’s activated. It’s also wise to keep your vehicle’s spare keys in a safe place, out of sight, and don’t leave the primary key in the vehicle when parked in your garage.
- Be vigilant when arriving home and ensure there’s sufficient lighting at the entrance to your property. Be aware of suspicious vehicles following you, and if you suspect you’re being followed, make a couple of false turns if need be, then drive to the nearest police station.
- Make sure the way you approach your driveway doesn’t make it difficult to escape if another vehicle stops behind you. Open your driveway gate while approaching, and not only after you have stopped in front of it. When driving, leave enough room between you and the car in front of you to avoid being boxed in.
- Use a GPS to avoid getting lost and becoming an easy target. Inform someone at your destination about your estimated time of arrival.
- Limit distractions, such as checking or talking on your cellphone, when walking to or from your car. Avoid distractions while driving.
- Avoid driving with windows open, keep the doors locked and lock valuables out of sight. Install smash-and-grab window protection if possible.
- Slowdown in such a way that the light is green by the time you reach a traffic light, especially late at night – this prevents you coming to a complete stop and reduces your risk of becoming a target.
- Always park in a safe, well-lit area.
- Check the back seat before getting into the car, even if you left it locked.
- Download Namola, an emergency app supported by Dialdirect, that helps you get help fast.
Here are eight golden rules to follow if you’re confronted by a hijacker:
- Remain calm.
- Don’t argue.
- Don’t make sudden gestures.
- Use the hand closest to the safety belt clip to unbuckle if asked to leave the vehicle.
- Avoid eye contact but try to remember what the carjacker looks like by identifying and remembering special features.
- Comply with the hijacker’s 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.
“None of us can afford to think ‘It won’t happen to me’. We have to be vigilant and thoroughly prepared for the worst,” Warwick says.
“It’s also imperative to be comprehensively insured so that, should your vehicle be hijacked, you can be back in a new set of wheels as quickly as possible.”