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Itâ€™s silly season again and that means itâ€™s time to be even more vigilant around crime and safety. Many of us will, after all, find ourselves in unfamiliar surroundings or coming and going at unusual hours. But what should you be looking out for? Well vehicle tracking firm Tracker and Arrive Alive have issued a list of road and vehicle threats, based on 2014â€™s vehicle crime and safety trends, which seems like a pretty good place to start.
According to the numbers*, 50% of hijackings take place in residential driveways and parking lots and within a 5km radius of a victimâ€™s home. Eighty percent of vehicle thefts meanwhile occur at shopping centres, schools and social events, mainly over weekends.
Both Tracker and Arrive Alive have also identified technology as an increasingly large threat, with criminals using remote devices to prevent a vehicle from being locked.
There are however measures you can take to stay safe on the roads during the festive season.
1. When driving up to your house, never park in your driveway facing the gate
Hijackers may park behind you and block you in. According to Tracker, this is unquestionably the leading modus operandi for hijackers in South Africa. Always stop in the road until the gate is open before you turn into your driveway.
2. Always travel with windows and doors locked and with valuables out of sight
If windows have to be open, ensure the opening isnâ€™t big enough to fit a hand through.
3. Always leave enough room between your car and the one in front of you to avoid being â€˜boxed inâ€™, should you need to escape
Gridlock doesn’t just hurt traffic, it can be a serious handicap when it comes to getting out of a difficult situation.
4. Be aware of anyone who approaches your car at traffic lights, stop streets or your driveway
Don’t be distracted. Being aware of your surroundings can, at the very least, buy you enough time to get out of a tricky situation.
5. Be aware of suspicious looking people, including women, at robots and intersections
Several women have been arrested for hijacking in recent years, either working alone or in gangs with men.
6. Do not drive directly home after you visited a bank or ATM
Be alert to who is around you when leaving the bank or ATM and along the journey to your destination.
7. Always park your vehicle at a secure location and ask the security guard his name
Park under CCTV cameras where possible. Even if something does go wrong, there will at least be a record of it.
8. Make sure that your vehicle is properly locked by testing the door handle
This speaks to the remote jamming we mentioned earlier. It’s also worth mentioning that you should not leave valuables visible on the seats.
9. Use proper rest-stops
Try to avoid stopping on the highway, rather take the next of ramp to stop in a more public area where you can stretch, refresh yourself and/or take a break from driving; and have numbers for roadside assistance and other emergencies close at hand or saved on your cell phone, so that you are well-prepared for any eventuality.
10. If you’re in an accident, be organised
Take a picture with a camera or mobile phone and file an accident report with the police as you will need a case number for your insurance company to fie a claim. Remember to get names, addresses, telephone numbers and ID numbers of everyone involved in the accident
* These are figures based on Trackerâ€™s own customer data and are independent of any other vehicle or crime industry body data