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Juliet McGuire

What to do and how to avoid a hijacking

Hijacking statistics in this country are terrifying. At my previous job, I did a number of articles on what to do if you are hijacked and ways to avoid being hijacked altogether. I haven’t done that yet on my website and thought it was about time.

MasterDrive is an incredible brand and they often send out safety tips to the media. It is from them that I have learnt how to avoid a hijacking and what to do if I find myself face-to-face with a hijacker.

MASTERDRIVE TIPS ON AVOIDING A HIGHJACKING

Don’t stop in your driveway

You need to be stationary to be hijacked. While it may seem rather redundant to say so, coming to a complete standstill is something many drivers still do. The managing director of MasterDrive, Eugene Herbert explains: “Hijackers need you to be stationary which is why you should never pull into your driveway until the gate is open. Instead, wait in the road parallel to your driveway, ready to go at any moment, while the gate opens.

“Where possible you should also try avoid stopping completely at intersections. If conditions allow, anticipate traffic light changes and drive slowly up to the intersection to avoid stopping at all. Remember, however, these techniques can only be effective if you are aware of your surroundings and spot a potential threat before it reaches your window,” says Herbert.

Reverse parking

Shopping centers are one of the areas where crime levels increase drastically over holiday periods. “If you find yourself at a shopping centre, find a parking space against a wall. Then reverse your car into the parking space. When you return to your car you can offload your purchases while keeping an eye open for potential threats. The wall at your back also prevents someone from surprising you from behind.”

Practice

“While none of us wants to think of being hijacked with our children, the reality is that we should. Before you find yourself in this situation, teach your children where to sit in the car and what to do if it does happen. Agree on a keyword which will mobilise car occupants into action. Remember a car is replaceable but a life isn’t. Your primary objective should be to get yourself and your family out the car as quickly and safely as possible.”

MORE TIPS TO AVOID BEING HIJACKED

Suzuki South Africa adds some tips:

  • Park in a secure area, with good lighting and preferably a guard on duty.
  • Have your keys ready, but out of sight, and only unlock your car when you’re close to it. Many Suzukis come with keyless entry which saves you from scrabbling around in your handbag in the dark.
  • Keep your valuables out of sight, preferably in the boot.
  • Drive with your windows closed and doors locked.
  • Stay vigilant. Be aware of your surroundings and watch your mirrors for any suspicious vehicles or pedestrians. Avoid distractions, like checking your phone at the robot, as this leaves you vulnerable.
  • Don’t remain stationary if you don’t need to. Slow down when approaching a red robot at night, so it’s green by the time you reach the intersection.
  • Keep a safe following distance (approximately one car length) and when stopped at a robot, allow yourself space to manoeuvre in case you need to make a quick getaway.
  • If you feel like you’re being followed, drive straight to your nearest police station or a busy, well lit public area.
  • Change your route regularly to avoid criminals being able to identify your routine.
  • Don’t turn into your driveway if you believe you’re being followed.
  • Pull up parallel to your gate as it opens or check to see if you have been followed from a shopping mall.
  • Let people know in advance what time you’ll be arriving so that someone can open and close the gate for you.
  • Keep your own driveway well lit and cut back any overgrown shrubs which could obstruct the view of your surrounding

WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE HIJACKED

  • Remain calm and non-confrontational.
  • Be compliant and do as the hijackers say.
  • Hand over your car keys without hesitation.
  • Appeal to their humanity and ask them to let you go.
  • Although it’s difficult, try to absorb as much detail as possible (e.g. the age, facial features and physical build of the hijackers).
  • Get as far away from the hijackers as possible before calling for help.
  • Report the incident to your local police station and vehicle tracking company.
  • Seek trauma counselling to help you recover from the ordeal.

BUSINESS INSDER’S 5 THINGS TO DO IF YOU’RE HIJACKED

Business Insider SA explains exactly what to do and I think these tips could potentially save your life. Derek Kirby, Ford South Africa’s advance and defensive driving expert, has one top tip when it comes to surviving a hijacking: “Remember that the car is insured!”

1. LIFT UP YOUR HANDS

Lift both your hands up and spread your ten fingers wide apart to show you’re not holding anything, which sends a message that you are not a threat to the hijacker(s).

2. THE SEATBELT MANOEUVRE

In such a high-stakes situation, one wrong or quick move could potentially lead to the pulling of a trigger out of panic. With both hands still raised, slowly reach for your seat belt with the left hand and rest it above your left thumb.

Once you’ve reached for the seat belt, pull it forward using your left thumb with the four idle fingers spread, again, to show that you’re not holding anything.

With the seat belt now up in front of you, being held up by your left thumb – pass your right hand under the seat belt to the left-side of it.

And then gently slide down the seat belt with your left thumb to the buckle and unbuckle it (with the right hand still raised up – to show you’re not pulling any funny moves).

3. PULL UP THE HANDBRAKE AND PUT YOUR CAR IN TO PARK OR NEUTRAL
4. UNLOCK YOUR DOOR

With the right hand still raised, unlock the door with your left hand.

“In most case, as you unlock the door the hijacker might be very kind to open the door for you,” says Kirby.

5. GET OUT OF THE CAR

Exit the vehicle with both hands raised up and keep your head down.

“Let them in the car and allow them to drive off because remember – it’s insured,” Kirby emphasises.

Another important tip Kirby shares is that you should leave the key in the ignition. Don’t just leave it in the car, because the hijackers may not find it. 

They’ll most probably return and not in the best of moods or ask for the key nicely when they get back.

Also, if you have passengers, they must try to exit using the same door as the driver,” advises Kirby. This gives the hijacker a greater sense of control. 

“At MasterDrive events, we are often asked if the hijackers want you to go with them, whether you should comply or refuse. There is no simple answer to this. In this instance, you need to use your instinct to decide your course of action. If there is no way to safely escape we, however, strongly caution against physically engaging with hijackers or infuriating them. You do not know what state of mind that individual is in or if the gun they hold is real or not.”

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