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Tips for hijacked drivers

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According to the South African Police Service, a vehicle is hijacked every 32 minutes in South Africa. There were 16,325 car and 1202 truck hijackings reported countrywide. In addition, 50,663 vehicles were stolen during the 2017/18 period.

Nhlanhla Mbatha, a journalist, has become a victim of South Africa’s five most heinous crimes: hijacking, kidnapping, fraud, theft and robbery – all in four hours.

“Three males pretending to be police officers stopped me just outside Soweto, and while one approached me to ask for directions, the other two stormed my car and forced me to the floor in the back of my car. I was interrogated about my car tracking devices and warned not to lie. They also made several calls to their contacts asking about the tracker in VW Polos, and other calls were made to potential buyers of the car,” Mbatha told.

Of course, it is not quite possible to prepare a driver for the trauma of a hijacking, but here are a few guidelines you might find useful.

First of all, to avoid a hijacking situation, stay vigilant, especially when pulling out of your driveway or coming home. According to statistics, 68% of all hijackings occur close to home. If you suspect that you are being followed, wait for any cars to pass you before entering your property. If you have a panic button or a mobile security app, have it on hand just in case.

If you are hijacked, stay calm and don’t antagonise the hijackers. Do not challenge or threaten them. Keep the engine running and unbuckle your seatbelt. Immediately raise your hands above your head to show them you have no weapon and will surrender.

Speak slowly and clearly and do not make sudden movements. Follow the instructions of the hijackers and do not try to be a hero, your life is far more valuable than any car.

If there are children in the backseat, make sure the hijackers are aware of this. Tell them that you are going to take the kids out of the vehicle. Always seat the eldest child behind the driver and the younger child to the left. Open the back door directly behind the driver’s door. Set one foot firmly in the car, on the floor behind the driver’s seat, as you lean across to retrieve the youngest child. Ask the eldest child to cling to you, so that you can get both of them out of the car at once. The firm footing is important: in case the hijacker drives off, you will be thrown into the car with your children and not left behind on the road. It is also a good idea to discuss this potential threat with your older children.

If the hijacker keeps you in the car and forces you to drive off, bump into another car while still at a slow speed. This might get you out of the situation.

During the interaction, avoid direct eye contact but try to remember as many details regarding the hijackers as possible, such as vehicle registration numbers, clothing, distinguishing features, the sound of their voices, etc. Contact emergency services as soon as possible.

These tips are based on current trends in hijacking revealed in the Johannesburg policing area.

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