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1. Preventing Hijackings : What to do
- Always travel with car doors locked and all windows closed or, at most, not open enough to allow a hand to fit through.
- Check your driveway and street before leaving or entering your premises. Make sure your driveway is well lit and clear of shrubbery in which criminals could hide.
- Ensure that you have a panic button on your gate/garage remote, and keep your remote in your hand when approaching and leaving your house at all times.
- When returning home, be alert when approaching your driveway; switch off the car radio and concentrate on your surroundings. If there are pedestrians or occupied vehicles parked near your home, don’t open electronic gates or turn into your driveway – rather drive past and return later.
- When returning home after dark make sure an outside light is left on and/or that someone meets you at the gate. Be wary if animals that usually greet you at your gates aren’t there.
- Be aware of anybody who approaches your car or who loiters near traffic lights, stop streets, parking areas or your driveway. If approached by a suspicious-looking person, especially at night or in lonely areas, drive off quickly while heeding traffic danger: skipping a stop sign or red light remains an offence.
- If you think you are in danger, attract attention of other motorists or pedestrians: use your hooter, flash your lights, put your emergency lights on or scream.
- Constantly monitor what vehicles are travelling behind, ahead and next to you. If you suspect that you are being followed, drive to the nearest police station or drive to another safe place but don’t go home.
- Leave enough room between your car and the one in front to avoid being boxed in; make sure you can see where the tyres of the other car make contact with the road. If you are suspicious of vehicles around you take (responsible) action to get out of the situation.
- Remain in your car if it is hit from behind. Inspect any damage only once you are sure it is not a hijack attempt.
- At unusual or unexpected roadblocks, keep windows closed and doors locked and ask for the police/traffic officer’s identity card. Show your identity document to them through the window: trust works both ways.
2. Preventing Hijackings : What NOT to do
- Don’t stop or slow down too much at the scene of an accident unless you are convinced it is genuine. Accidents can be set up in the hope that you will stop to assist. Sometimes a “body” is placed next to the road. Rather drive on and report the incident at the nearest police station.
- Don’t stop if, for example, a passer-by indicates that your car has a flat tyre or other defect. Drive to the nearest service station or safe area and check it there. It is a good idea to carry a product that temporarily seals any puncture and inflates the tyre.
- Don’t leave your car door open and the engine running while opening your garage door or gates. If you have to get out of your car to open your gate, switch the engine off, take the key out of the ignition and close the door. This makes it more difficult to steal your car, and if small children are in your vehicle you can negotiate getting them out in exchange for the key. With older children rather let them get out with you when you open the gate so you’re all away from the vehicle should it be hijacked.
3. Surviving a hijacking
- A hijacking is usually over in a matter of seconds or minutes but it is one of the most frightening experiences one can go through. Try your utmost to stay calm. Listen to the hijackers and do as they tell you and you have a greater chance of surviving.
- Regardless of the criminal’s intentions, the situation is an explosive one in which you both have one thing in mind: survival. Your life and the lives of those with you must be your priority. Resisting the hijackers may cause violence or even death. Remember: possessions can be replaced, a life cannot.
- Hijacking involves planning and the criminals are likely to have more experience in such situations, thus more control over you and themselves. They might be as nervous as you are, and they may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol which may make their actions more unpredictable.
- Avoid eye contact with the hijackers and try not to do anything they may not be expecting. Do not scream or make sudden movements, such as motioning with your hands. Keep your hands where the hijackers can see them, ideally at chest level. This will assure them that you are not reaching for a weapon. Do not raise your hands above your head as they may think you are attracting attention of other people.
- Quietly but clearly assure the hijackers that they can take the car.
- If they order you out of the car wait for them to open the door or, if they order you to open the door, do it slowly with one hand, keeping the other where they can see it. Also undo your seatbelt with one hand, preferably the hand furthest from the clip by extending your arm over your body (if it is on your left, use your right hand).
- Slowly move away from the car so that you cannot be perceived as a threat to the hijackers.
- Be honest with hijackers. Tell them how to deactivate any alarms or immobilisers or do it yourself if ordered to do so.
- Bear in mind the possibility of later identifying the hijackers. Make mental notes of how many there are, what they are wearing, their ages, and any facial or other physical characteristics. However, try not to be obvious and do not stare at the hijackers.
- Hijackers may not notice a sleeping baby in the back seat. If this is the case, tell them and point out that the child will make things more difficult for them. Never move to release the child without them saying you may. The same applies if a pet is in the car but don’t push the point to where your life may be threatened at the expense of an animal.
- If ordered to lie down, do so and remain with your head down. Stay still until you are sure they have left and only then go or call for help.
- Hijackers may drive off with you or might even order you to drive. If you have to drive, do so responsibly and don’t do anything out of the ordinary. Remain quiet unless you need to reply to a question or clarify an order. Remember to be honest with them.
4. After a hijacking
- Get help as soon as the hijackers have left you and immediately report it to the police. The police have a greater chance of catching the criminals while they are on the move in your car.
- You need professional counselling to help you process what happened and cope with it emotionally. During a hijacking you experience severe trauma, which can manifest itself in many different ways soon or long after the incident. Seek help within hours of the hijacking. Do not fool yourself into thinking you’ll “get over it”.