Being aware of your surroundings is one of the best ways to avoid a potential hijacking, says local security company Fidelity ADT

“Always make sure you know exactly what is happening around your vehicle so that you can see any danger coming before it is too late,” says the company’s Verena Hulme, district manager (Cape Town North).

Prevention is better than cure, she says. Hulme recommends:

  • When parking, reverse park for a quick exit (also at home!!).
  • Always be particularly vigilant when you leave a shopping centre. Hijackers could have spotters working in the centre to alert of any big purchases or cash withdrawals.
  • Keep your car keys at hand when approaching your vehicle, do not fumble in your handbag as this shows you are off guard.
  • Look out for any suspicious objects near your car before getting in.
  • If you suspect you are being followed, put your indicator on and slow down at least two to three houses prior to your home. If you are being followed, you will force the vehicle behind you to pass and this could cause the criminals to lose interest.
  • Always make sure you can see the back wheels of the car in front of you when you stop in the traffic. This gives you enough room to maneuver and escape.
  • If you need to stop in your driveway to manually open the gate, always leave the key in the ignition and the motor running unless you have a child in the car. Only then should you take the key with you as you open the gate. The key is a valuable negotiating tool – they want your car and you want your child.
  • Adjust your speed when approaching a traffic light so that you do not have to come to a complete stop where at all possible.
  • Vary and change your driving routes and routines.
  • Don’t fall for the ‘tap-tap’ trap, where a driver taps the back of your car in traffic. Never get out of your car on the scene to assess the damage but rather drive to a busy location. Signal to the other driver to follow you. If it is not legitimate they will seldom follow you.
  • If you stay in a secure complex with security guards, do not be fooled into thinking you are safe. You can easily be followed into your complex so always remain vigilant. Research shows that most people relax the closer they get to home and this is often when they are most vulnerable.
  • Be on the lookout for people standing near your gate or driveway and ensuring that the area around your gate or driveway is well lit.
  • Phone ahead to give a relative or friend your expected time of arrival.
  • Get to know your neighbours and the cars they drive. This will help to identify any uncommon vehicles in your area.

What should you do if you do find yourself face-to-face with a hijacker?

“The golden rule is to not antagonise the hijackers who are probably more scared than you are. You need to show them you are not a threat. Lift up your arms to show you have no weapon and will surrender. Use your left arm to undo your seatbelt and put your car in neutral,” says Hulme.

Do not turn off your car, she says, and get out slowly.

“Try and angle your body sideways so you are not facing a firearm head-on. Also remember to protect your head with your arms and avoid direct eye contact with the hijackers, but try to take in as much information as possible, such as what they are wearing, and the sound of their voices. Most importantly, try to remain calm”.

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Hulme says there are also seven golden rules to follow if you are held up:

  • Remain calm
  • Do not argue
  • Do not make sudden gestures
  • Avoid eye contact but try to remember what the carjacker looks like by identifying and remembering special features
  • Comply with the hijackers 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!