“I heard the other day that my buddy was hijacked while driving in a remote area in Johannesburg. I tell you, this is scary stuff – the worst part of it is that I wouldn’t know what to do if it had to happen to me. I would just freak out and start screaming or something.”
When we hear such comments, which we can all so easily identify with, we realize that it is also important to know what to do before any such event possibly happens to us. We cannot be expected to remember everything during a traumatic situation but at least if we familiarize ourselves with the key information we need for such an event then it may mean that our lives are more likely to be protected. Let’s see what we can learn as we read further.
South Africans experience one of the highest frequencies of hijackings in the entire world.1 This is certainly a sobering thought for us motorists who happen to live in this part of the world. Every day in sunny South Africa some unfortunate motorists are getting hijacked and lose their vehicles at the hands of violent criminals. It’s only human nature to think that it will never be “me”. Nonetheless, not to be negative, let’s at least have some idea of what to do during a hijacking.
WHAT DO EMERGENCY SERVICES SUGGEST?
Emergency Service crews say you should try and remember the following during a hijacking incident:
- It’s easier said than done – the first thing you need to do is remain calm and not panic! Remember that the hijacker is most likely more nervous and twitchy than you are, so the last thing you want to do is make it worse for him or her by screaming or waving your arms. If you do that you are likely to place your life and your passenger’s lives in great danger. 1,2
- Secondly, follow instructions1,2 but also don’t offer any valuables or information unless it is requested by the hijacker. Don’t hold onto your possessions – even though your watch may be of great personal and sentimental value, you can always replace it. Your life is, of course, irreplaceable.
- Honesty is the best policy with the hijacker. If you hide information from them when they ask, and they somehow discover this later, this could lead to serious repercussions.
- Despite the situation being traumatic, try and keep an eye open for any details about the hijacker that may strike you – such as a deep scar on the forehead or a certain tattoo on the hand; what race, language; and height the person is. This type of information is crucial to the emergency services when identifying and attempting to find the criminal.
- Avoid all eye contact with the hijacker.
- Don’t move your hands, and keep them where the hijacker can see them.2 Don’t reach for your pocket unless told to do so – the hijacker may think you may be reaching for a gun. In fact, putting up your hands where the hijacker can see them is recommnded.3
- Bear in mind that all that matters during the entire hijacking period is the safety of human lives. Everything else can be replaced. So don’t be a wise guy by being brave. Your actions could easily turn sour, placing everyone in a dire position, especially if the hijacker is armed.1,4
- If there is anyone in the car (e.g. a baby) that the hijacker doesn’t know about, let him or her know.
- Once the hijacker has departed from the scene, report the incident immediately to the police by phoning (if you still have your cell phone).
- It will be in your best interest to ensure that emergency contact numbers are saved on your cell phone for contacting emergency services e.g. the police flying squad. The last thing you want to have to do is search (while you are shaking like a leaf) and try to find the right emergency contact number. You can phone the SA Police Service on 08600 10111, or 112 ANY Network (Vodacom, MTN, & Cell C) or 147 Vodacom ONLY.2
- Tell the police all the details of your car, and the direction that the hijacker went. Time is of the essence, if you do want to try get your car back.
They say prevention is better than cure, so let’s see how we can avoid a hijack.
HOW CAN WE AVOID A HIJACK?
Training provided by, for instance, the National Hijack Prevention Academy (NHPA), is the best way to prepare yourself for what to do in a hijack situation. This involves being taught how to handle your car, such as collision avoidance, as well as defensive driving.2
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU GET TO YOUR DRIVEWAY, AND ARE ABOUT TO ENTER?
- We, as drivers, need to be constantly alert to see if anyone is following us. Even if you are still some distance from your house, sometimes you may find that another car just happens to be on the same route as you, but only for a while, and then turns off somewhere. If you aren’t sure if the car is following you, just turn left or right, and if the car behind you is still following you, then it looks like you are really being followed.
- If you are not being followed, as a matter of practice, when you arrive home stop the vehicle when you are just inside of the closing gate and then put the car in reverse. The reverse lights may well confuse any would-be hijacker and this would provide you with those extra few seconds you need for the gate behind you to close completely.
- When arriving or leaving your home, have a good look at the driveway and surrounding street area. Proper lighting at your entrance will prevent potential hijackers from lurking in the shadows. Remove any shrubs that can also be used for a hide-away spot.
- Be on the lookout for any cars parked close to your house – it could be criminals that are surveying the area.
- No matter how innocent a pedestrian may look when he or she is approaching your driveway – rather drive on and come back later.
- Know that if your favourite pooch doesn’t greet you when you come home, it may mean that criminals are already on the property, and have captured your pet.
- If you are really unhappy about the idea of coming home late at night all by yourself, contact your armed response company to ask them if they could please be there when you arrive.
- Should you have to open the gate yourself, when you get there, switch off the car, but leave the key in the ignition, and close the car door. Only then open the gate.
- Only when you have small children in the car, do you take the key out of the ignition, as then you can hopefully negotiate with the criminals – they want the car key, and you want your children.
- If your kids are a lot older, get them to come with you after leaving the key in the ignition, as then you are all some distance away from the vehicle if a hijack does occur.
TIPS WHEN PARKING YOUR CAR
- Look in your rear-view mirror to see if you are being followed.
- As you get out of your car, be alert regarding your surroundings about where a potential hijacker could be hiding.
- If for any reason you have to sit in your car for a while, stay alert of your surroundings at all times. And of course, it goes without saying that you must never sleep in your car – it could literally turn into a nightmare!
WHAT TO DO BEFORE DRIVING OFF AND WHILE DRIVING
- Ensure your key is available, but keep it out of sight.
- Before you unlock the car, walk round your car and make sure all is well.
- Ensure you know your route and that you don’t get lost in some “dodgy” area.
- Never drive with open windows. Car doors must be locked at all times.
- Know where any police stations may be in your area.
- When coming to a halt behind another car, leave some good space (about half the length of your car) in front of your car, so that you can make a quick getaway if need be.
- When you have to drop someone off somewhere, wait until that person is safe inside their car or property.
- Don’t drive through any unsafe areas.
- Choose to drive only during the day, when there is lots of activity around.
- Avoid driving alone, if possible.
- Whatever you do, never take the awful chance of picking up any hitchhikers.
This article was prepared by Eric Sandmann in his personal capacity. The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the views and opinions of Prime Meridian Direct (Pty) Ltd, FSP41040.The views and opinions in the article should not be attributed to anyone but the author unless expressly stated. Nothing in this article should be relied upon as advice, this publication is presented for informational purposes only. No person should act or refrain from acting in reliance on any information found in this article, without first obtaining proper financial advice from the appropriate professional. The author makes no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, or completeness, of any information linked from, referred to, or contained in this article. The author reserves the right, to edit and change the content of this article.