BE ON YOUR GUARD: Criminals will take advantage of unwary travelllers during the holiday period. Make sure you read and follow our top 10 road safety trips to help protect your family. Image: Shutterstock ~ Shutterstock
Millions of South Africans will take to the nation's roads during the December/January holiday season. Will you be among them? If so...
...it is vitally important to remember to maintain vigilance as you drive - even more so as criminals take advantage of road users.Here are some 2014 SA vehicle crime trends:
• Hijackings* - 50% happen in home driveways and car parks and within a five km radius of a victim's home.
• Vehicle theft - 80% occur at shopping centres, schools and social events, mainly over weekends.
• Technology - Criminals use remote devices to prevent your vehicle from being locked.
Below is a list of road and vehicle threats, based on 2014's SA vehicle crime and safety trends, to help you and your family stay safe during the holiday period - and, if you practice them as a habit, the rest of the year, too.1
Top 10 tips to stay safe on SA roads
You are approaching the apron of your driveway immediately before the gate. From now on, leave your car in the road, turn off the engine and take the key. Go open the gate, then return to the car and drive inside. Do the same if your gate is powered.
According to vehicle recovery company Tracker: "This is unquestionably the leading modus operandi
for hijackers in South Africa. Always stop in the road until the gate is open before you turn into your driveway."2
Always travel with your doors locked; keep valuables out of sight. If your windows must
be open ensure the opening isn't wide enough to fit a hand through.3
Always leave enough space between your car and the one in front at a traffic light or stop-street to avoid being "boxed in" should you need to escape.4
Be aware of any person approaching at traffic lights, stop streets or your driveway. Don't be distracted. If outside your home gate, drive away again.5
Be aware of people loitering at road junctions. Tracker reports that its has arrested several women for hijacking in recent years, either working alone or in a gangs with men.6
Do not drive directly home after drawing money from a bank teller or ATM. Spotters working inside the bank can relay the information by cellphone to accomplices outside who might follow you home.7
Always park your vehicle at a secure location, if possible near closed-circuit TV cameras.8
Make sure your vehicle is properly locked by testing the door release before you walk away; the threat here is called "jamming
" (watch the video). Under no circumstances leave valuables in your car.9
Avoid stopping on a highway; rather take the next off-ramp and find a public area where you can stretch, refresh yourself and/or take a break from driving. Apart from which, stopping on a freeway is illegal. Have numbers for roadside assistance and other emergency services close to hand or saved on your cellphone.10
If you're involved in a collision take a series of pictures with a camera/cellphone from a number of positions all around the wreckage. File an accident report with the police within 24-hours; you will need a case number for your insurance company to file a claim.
But first do what you can for the injured and call emergency services. Get everybody out of your car and right off the carriageway. Then remember to obtain names, addresses, telephone numbers and ID numbers of everyone involved in the crash, including passengers. Ask to see the other driver's driving licenc
e - photograph it if possible - and allow him/her to do the same with yours.DON'T LEAVE THE SCENE
Arguing and shouting will not help; neither will threats of or actual violence. If you have a roadside assistance plan in force on your car then use it, if your car is undriveable, to recover luggage and personal items and to arrange transport for your family / passengers and vehicle recovery and storage.
Assuming you are not badly hurt, do not leave the scene until the police have all the information they need.
Figures and information provided by Tracker, Arrive Alive and Wheels24.
* These are figures based on Tracker's own customer data and are independent of any other vehicle or crime industry body data.