Protecting your car and its occupants from hijacking

The latest police crime statistics show that around 60 vehicles are hijacked in South Africa every day. Presenting the latest quarterly crime statistics for the first quarter of 2023/24 (April – June), the South African Police Service (SAPS) states that 5 488 cars were hijacked over the three-month period of its report.

“October is Transport Month, a period to renew our focus on all matters relating to transport. It is an ideal opportunity to make sure we are properly prepared and that we know exactly what to do and what not to do during a hijacking if this should happen to us or our loved ones,” says Wahl Bartmann, group CEO of the Fidelity Services Group.

The first step, he says, is to be vigilant. “Turn your radio off, put your phone down, tell the kids to be quiet, and concentrate on your surroundings as you drive. Please report anything suspicious to your security provider or the SAPS immediately.”

What do you do if you do find yourself the victim of a hijacking? “The first and golden rule is to not antagonise the hijackers. You need to show them you are not a threat,” he says.

“Lift up your arms to show you have no weapon and will surrender. Use your left arm to undo your seatbelt and put your car in neutral. Do not turn off your car, and get out slowly.

“Try and angle your body sideways so you are not facing a firearm head-on. Also, remember to protect your head with your arms and avoid direct eye contact with the hijackers, but try to take in what they are wearing, the sound of their voices, and any other unique identifying features that could help police later. Most importantly, try to remain calm.”

Bartmann also recommends a rethink of the telematics system installed in your vehicle. “You should ask yourself if this is still the best and most effective product for your needs. In the same way that you would upgrade your cellphone, you should consider maybe switching to a new and better tracking product.”

Technology is a fast-developing arena where newer and more efficient products and services are developed at a blistering pace.

“Your vehicle tracking system can literally mean the difference between life and death. Pinpoint accuracy has become increasingly necessary, and recent advances in GPS technology have made geospatial information far more accurate and accessible than before,” he says. “Technology now provides greater accuracy in positioning, communicated using far better communications technology. The good news is that the latest hardware and firmware combinations allow for more data to be sent more often, at lower prices, than ever before.”

Bartmann says knowing exactly where you are means accident alerts can be received in real time, resulting in faster emergency dispatching where every second counts.

“Asking your telematics service partner some key questions could be the best investment in your security you have made. It starts with testing the system today to see if it still offers the kind of protection and monitoring that would make you feel comfortable.”

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