Although hijackings are slowly declining, 17 000 cases were reported last year. Close to 130,000 reports of thefts from vehicles (e.g. smash and grabs or remote jamming) were also noted by police. Safety on the roads and in parking areas should remain top-of-mind for all of us, says Nunben Dixon, Head of Gumtree Auto. “Women traveling alone or with their children might feel especially vulnerable, which is why it’s important to familiarize yourself with safety measures.”
What to do with confronted with blue light vehicle
There have been isolated cases where hijackers fit blue lights to their cars to set up victims. In other scenarios, women have reported being intimidated or threatened by police and are now hesitant to respond when they are asked to pull over for road blocks or inspections. “You absolutely have to respond to blue lights and police officers, but you don’t necessarily have to pull over to the side of the road. If you are too afraid to stop, you can switch on your hazards, put your arm out of the window and signal that you would like to be followed. You can drive to the nearest police or service station. If possible, phone 10111 and let them know what is happening.”
Avoid theft from your vehicle
If possible, fit smash and grab to your vehicle. “There’s a bit of a cost to it, but tinted windows can deter opportunistic smash and grab crime. If that is not feasible, always lock your handbag and valuables in the boot or store it out of sight. It is also advisable to drive with your window rolled down by a few millimeters – it will be make it harder to break.”
Avoid remote jamming
“Get into the habit of locking your doors with your key or checking the door after you’ve hit the lock button. Keep an eye out for suspicious characters when you enter a parking lot and report any unusual activity to security,” says Dixon.
Many new parents (especially in the early days of parenthood) can attest to the brain fog they’ve experienced. Leaving a baby in a hot car can have fatal consequences, which is why you should implement easy hacks to ensure that you are fully aware of when baby is in the car. “Buy a large teddy bear or stuffed animal and keep him in the car seat. When you put your baby in the car, move the teddy bear to the passenger seat in front. When you take your baby out, put the teddy bear back. It’s a good reminder – especially when you are sleep deprived or deviating from your regular routine.”
Driving in bad weather
Torrential rain can cause low visibility and poor road conditions but if staying home is not an option, you have to prepare yourself for driving on flooded roads. “Know your car – know where the brights, demister and fog lights are and ensure that your wiper blades are in top shape. Maintain a wide following distance and if your steering feels light because of aquaplaning, ease your speed gradually and drive slowly. Avoid puddles and standing water if you can; they can hide deceptively deep potholes or sharp objects. Drive slowly to avoid making a bow wave that can flood your engine.”
Being hijacked is every drivers’ nightmare. It’s important to stay calm and not try to hold on to your vehicle. “If all they want is your car, give it to them. Put your hands up and calmly tell them that you are going to undo your seatbelt. Step away from the car slowly. If you need to take your child from the car, tell them that you are going to move to the back seat without exiting the car. If you need to exit the car first, place one foot inside the car so that you will fall forward if the hijacker drives off. If you feel threatened and need to escape, throw the keys away and run in the opposite direction. Chances are they are more interested in your vehicle than in you, so will likely go after the keys.”
Avoid breaking down
The most overlooked road safety element is car maintenance. “Check your tyre pressure, oil and water levels frequently. Wash or wipe down your car.