Car Safety: what to do in case of carjacking

Have you ever thought about the risks of carjacking?

Consider that you car is an extension of your home. For some people the car is their home, but for many of us, the car is a place of solitude where we can listen to our own music and smoke cigarettes, but hopefully not drink alcohol. Yet, these safety considerations are nothing compared to what can happen to your car before, during or after you have used it during your normal day.

Herewith some easy precautions to counter car bombs which are destructive forms of attack yet fairly simple to accomplish.

As car bombs can be triggered by speed, braking, pressure, pull or by radio, the best way to learn the basics is to attend one of our H.E.A.T. course and minimise the threat by:

  • – secure your car in a locked garage when not in use
  • – check the driver’s seat and the surrounding area
  • – look for external wires connected to the bonnet and look underneath the car, especially wheel aches
  • – look through the opposite doors from the windows and check for signs of tempering of for suspect wires

By conducting a search of your car on a regular basis, your actions will be noted by any surveillance team and they will be more cautious about planting and explosive device in your car.

Yet, there are other concerns especially with regards to a car hijacking. This crime is also known as carjacking and generally occurs when you are still in the car or just as you are entering and exiting the vehicle.

The motivation for hijacking the vehicle with the driver is because unoccupied vehicles have new and better alarms and protective devises that are increasingly difficult to overcome.

As you will learn on our HEAT course the most common hijacking technique in Africa is via a gun. Hijackers approach you as you are leaving your vehicle and therefore somehow distracted by your location and decisions regarding items to be left or removed from the vehicle.

Sometimes, the hijackers work in pairs and rely on the shock factor to demand you keys and to drive away unhindered.

Another technique is for a vehicle to drive into the rear of your car. The hijackers are anticipating that your first instinct after getting bumped is to exit your vehicle. If you do so, the hijackers will steal your keys and drive away with your vehicle and, possibly, with you inside. In such an instance, if you have been placed in the boot, you should try to access the tail lights and attract attention by breaking the outer plastic covering using a jack or tyre iron.

Hijackers often impersonate law enforcement personnel and valet parking attendants. In this way, your vehicle can be stolen from you without knowing the identity of the thieves.

Although recent statistics have shown that weapons are being used more frequently in vehicle hijackings, once you get into the car, with an armed hijacker you are unlikely to survive the experience. The hijacker has not only committed a crime by stealing your car, but now has you under control. All too frequently, hijackers take the drivers to a disused area and murder them to prevent any positive identification or to minimise the chance of GPS tracking via the driver’s mobile phone.

So, what precautions can you take?

On our HEAT course attendees often reply that they will simply hand over their car keys and pray for the best. Such advice is typically provided by the police but ignores the fact that hijackers also want your valuables other than the car.

Therefore, to improve your safety and security, simply refuse to accompany the hijacker and run away. If you are already in your car, throw cash or credit cards out of the window, exit the vehicle and run away. The chances are you will distract the hijacker and be able to make your escape. Alternatively, lay flat on the ground as your hijacker is unlikely to force you to accompany him or her in your hijacked vehicle.

Increasingly, hijackers have stolen vehicles with young children strapped into the rear seats. Fortunately, at least in South Africa, the hijackers often remove the car seat with the child still in it and deposit both in the safe keeping of a stranger.

Imagine that you are faced with hijacking when your child is in the car. Your first priority is to exit the vehicle with your child and run away. As we teach on the HEAT course, you could throw the car keys and cash out of the window as a distraction.

Lastly, you should also consider separating your car keys from your house keys. In this way, if your car keys are stolen, you can at least access your house. Likewise, you should not put your home address into the HOME location on your GPS or other navigation equipment.

Therefore, whilst threats do exist to you and your vehicle you need to have an understanding of what to do in certain scenarios. Whilst the protection of your life is a priority, by adopting sound security strategies, and knowing how to respond to car hijackers you will be able to mitigate all these risks.