How to avoid getting hijacked and what to do

High levels of unemployment and huge inequality in South Africa have led to crime being an unfortunate reality in our lives. In 2014, 11,129 cases of carjacking and 989 cases of truck jacking were reported by the SAPS. The positive is that according to national statistics, hijackings in South Africa are declining.

Where and when
Hijackings occur every day of the week, mostly on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, reaching a high on Fridays. These incidences typically peak during commuting hours, i.e. 16h00-20h00 and 04h00-08h00 where people heading to, or returning from, work are often tired or not alert to potentially dangerous circumstances. Negligent motorists are often taken advantage of while leaving their vehicle idling and unattended while opening a gate in the driveway, for example.

In the majority of vehicle hijackings, firearms are used to commit the crime. The highest incidences of vehicle hijacking were reported in Gauteng and Kwa-Zulu Natal. Bakkies, entry-level sedans, luxury vehicles and 4×4s statistically, are high risk vehicles.

Most hijackings take place in high crime areas or hot spots, in the driveways of the victims’ home or businesses while victims are waiting for a gate to open or close, when the driver is talking on their phone in their stationary vehicle at the side of the road, in a quiet parking area where the vehicle can easily be followed, or while the victim is busy dropping off passengers or goods.

Tips on how to prevent hijacking
National Hijack Prevention Academy (NHPA) offers some good hijacking prevention tips as per a previous Wheels24 article:

  1. Always be vigilant and aware of your surroundings. 
  2. When returning to your parked car, be aware of the surroundings. 
  3. Walk to your car confidently. Have your key ready but not visible. Only unlock your car when you’re close by.
  4. Don’t talk on the phone as you walk to/from your vehicle. 
  5. Check the back seat before getting into the car, even if you left it locked. 
  6. Plan the safest route. Drive with a GPS and let someone know what your route is and when to expect you somewhere. 
  7. Avoid high crime areas or high jacking hotspots
  8. Change your routes and your schedule on a regular basis.
  9. Try not to drive late at night and/or the early hours of the morning when the roads are quiet.
  10. Always check the rear view mirror to see if you’re being followed, and if you suspect you are, drive to your nearest police station or busy public area but don’t go home.
  11. Keep your doors locked at all times and avoid driving with your windows open.
  12. Put all valuables out of sight, especially handbags and laptops. Place these items in the boot.
  13. If possible, install a smash-and-grab window film for extra protection on windows. 
  14. When approaching a red traffic light, slow down so that you only reach it when it turns green. 
  15. Try to stop about 5 meters behind the car in front of you at a stop sign or traffic light – it makes it easier to get away if trouble arises.
  16. If another vehicle comes up alongside you and tries to flag you down by indicating something is wrong with your vehicle, slow down but don’t stop. Head for a safe location where you can check the potential problem.
  17. Get to know your neighbours and beware of any unfamiliar cars in your street.
  18. When you arrive home or at your workplace, make sure the driveway is well-lit and that there are no bushes where someone can hide.

Basic tips for when you do get hijacked
It is important to remember that a hijacking is a pre-meditated and organised incident, so it’s best to keep calm and just do whatever they tell you.

  1. Keep your hands clearly visible and lift up your arms to show you have no weapon and will surrender. 
  2. Don’t turn your vehicle off at any time.
  3. Don’t make any sudden gestures with your hands.
  4. Try to listen and understand exactly what the hijackers want from you.
  5. Don’t resist. Surrender your vehicle and move away, leaving everything in the vehicle.
  6. Calmly alert them if there are any children or other passengers in the car and request for them to be safely removed from the vehicle while reassuring that the vehicle can be taken.
  7. Don’t turn your back on the hijackers and remain aware of their whereabouts and your surroundings at all time.
  8. Avoid direct eye contact with the hijackers but try to take note of what they’re wearing, the sound of their voices, etc. in order to assist the police with their investigation. 
  9. Report the incident immediately when you are safe. You can contact the South African Police Service on 08600 10111 or 112 for emergency services. It is important to report the incident as soon as you can in order to assist with the recovering your vehicle and apprehending the hijackers.