HOW TO PREVENT BEING HIJACKED: Familiarise yourself with these useful tips and you could reduce your risk of being hijacked. Image: Shutterstock
CAPE TOWN - In the wake of violent hijackings that have grabbed headlines, South Africans are increasingly on edge on the road – and rightly so.
Chief executive of Old Mutual iWyze valuables insurance, Andrew Le Roux, comments: “The increasing number of reported hijackings is worrying. It’s an awfully traumatic experience for victims – whether they are physically harmed or not.”
According to the company, the financial pressure that comes with losing a car should be the least of a hijacking victim’s concerns.
NATIONAL HIJACK PREVENTION ACADEMY
Le Roux said: “The National Hijack Prevention Academy (NHPA) has a simple, yet crucial primary message which we fully endorse: ‘Your life is worth more than your vehicle’.
"Your life and safety, and that of those who are with you, should always be your only concern.”
Here are the NHPA’s top hijacking prevention tips:
1. Know when you’re at risk Founder of the NHPA, Richard Brussow, said: "Hijackings usually take place in areas with easy escape routes. These include driveways, intersections and traffic signs where vehicles are forced to stop. Places where drivers might pull over to use a cellphone or drop off/pick up children from school are also high-risk areas.
2. Keep your car doors locked, windows closed and ensure that no bags, briefcases or valuables are visible. Brussow says: “When approaching traffic lights at night, slow down so that you reach them when they turn green. Otherwise, when stopping behind vehicles in traffic, always leave half a vehicle length in front of you to allow room for an emergency escape.”
3. Only pull over when it’s safe “Some syndicates use bogus police or traffic officers,” says Brussow, adding that in the event of being approached by an unmarked SAPS vehicle, you should switch on your hazards, put your hand out of the window and indicate that they should follow you.
“Head to the nearest police station or busy area before pulling over. You should do the same if your vehicle is bumped from behind and you do not feel comfortable with the individual involved in the situation."
4. If you encounter obstacles in the road such as rocks or tyres, do not get out of your vehicle to remove them. Rather reverse and drive away in the opposite direction.
5. Take appropriate action According to the NHPA, if any person or vehicle arouses your suspicions, treat it as hostile and take appropriate action. Brussow says: “For example, when approaching a red traffic light late at night, slow down, check for oncoming traffic and if clear, drive through the intersection. A fine will be preferable to an attack.”
He adds that this is not an excuse to ignore the rules of the road. The onus will still be on you to prove in a court of law that you had justifiable reason to act the way you did.
6. Be on high alert near home Be extra alert when approaching and entering your driveway. Switch off the car radio and concentrate on your surroundings. Check your driveway and street before you leave or enter your premises.
“Pay particular attention to unknown pedestrians and vehicles with occupants. If you notice either of these, rather pass by your home and come back later,” says Brussow. “Stop your vehicle just inside the gate and select reverse whilst waiting for the gate to close. This creates confusion and may buy you a few seconds for the gate to close completely behind you.”
7. Use the key as a negotiating tool Should you have to get out of your car to open your gate and you have small children with you, take your key with you when exiting the car. “You need the key as a negotiating tool,” says Brussow. “The perpetrators want your vehicle and you want your children.”
8. If your children are older, get them to exit the vehicle with you when opening the gate so that you are all separated from the vehicle should an attack occur.
9. Do not resist In the event of a hijacking, the most important thing to remember is not to resist – especially if the hijacker has a weapon. Surrender your vehicle and move away. Try to put as much distance between yourself and the hijackers as speedily as possible. Do not reach for your valuables. Leave everything in the vehicle.”
10. If you are forced to drive with a hijacker, do not make eye contact or any sudden movements. Do not lose your temper, threaten or challenge the hijacker – do as they tell you. Keep your hands still and visible to the hijacker and try to memorise as many details as possible in order to potentially identify the hijacker.
11. Report the incident immediately Once you have reached safety, contact the South African Police Service on 08600 10111 or 112 for emergency services immediately. Promptly reporting the incident is vital to assist with the recovery of your vehicle and the apprehension of the hijackers.
“When reporting the incident, make sure you have the vehicle details readily available such as the model, colour, vehicle identification and registration numbers,” said Brussow.
He adds that vehicle owners usually have tracking devices installed when insuring their vehicles: “Once you have reported the incident to the police, alert your tracking company so they can start the search.”