ACCORDING to statistics recently released by the SAPS, car hijackings have increased by a worrying 14,3% since last year and by 55% over the past four years.

This increase has also been confirmed by Dialdirect.

Bianca de Beer, spokesperson for Dialdirect, said: “Our claims statistics noted an upward trend in hijackings. Our statistics mirror those of the SAPS and show that the majority of hijackings take place in Gauteng, followed by KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape.”

Dialdirect offers the following practical tips to avoid becoming a hijacking statistic:

  • Carefully plan your route.

Use a GPS to avoid getting lost and becoming an easy target. Inform the people or a person at your destination about your estimated time of arrival.

  • Always stay alert. Be aware of your surroundings and look out for anything suspicious.
  • Stay confident and focused. Limit distractions, like checking or talking on your cellphone when walking to or from your car.
  • Lock up. Avoid driving with windows open, keep the doors locked and lock valuables out of sight.

Install smash-and-grab window protection, if possible.

  • Mix things up. Vary the routes you take to make it less predictable for criminals.
  • Check your car’s tail. If you suspect you’re being followed, make a couple of false turns. If someone is still following you, drive to the nearest police station.
  • Allow for space.

Leave enough room between you and the car in front of you to avoid being boxed in.

  • Savvy stopping.

Slow down in such a way that the light is green when you reach a traffic light, especially late at night – this helps you avoid coming to a complete stop and reduces your risk of becoming a target.

  • Pick your parking spot. Always park in a safe, well-lit area.
  • Use panic buttons. If you sense you’re in danger, use the panic button on your tracking device, if it has one.
  • Go electric. Many hijackings take place just as you enter or leave your home.

Having a well-lit, shrub-free driveway and an electric gate (that can switch to battery power during power failures) can help you get in and out safely.

Use the remote to close the gate behind you, rather than waiting for the self-timer.

This limits a criminal’s window of opportunity.

  • Know your neighbour. Knowing your neighbours and the cars they drive will help you to better identify suspicious individuals and vehicles.
  • Keep an SOS phone.

Keep a spare, small and cheap phone loaded with airtime and emergency contacts (including your insurer) handy so you can call for help if and when your car and valuables are stolen.

  • Keep your car in tiptop shape. A broken down car makes you the target for would-be hijackers who will settle for a raid of your valuables.

There are also some golden rules to follow if you’re confronted by a hijacker:

  • Remain calm.
  • Don’t argue.
  • Don’t make sudden moves.
  • Avoid eye contact, but try to remember what the carjacker looked like by identifying and remembering specific 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 and your family’s is worth more than your car.