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Here’s when you’re most likely to get hijacked, and how to lower your risk

Published Feb 2, 2021


JOHANNESBURG – While car theft levels appear to have dropped significantly, hijackings are still a great cause for concern, vehicle tracking specialist Tracker said on Tuesday.

Drawing data from its vehicle base of over 1 million, Tracker said vehicle thefts decreased by 21% over the period from July to December 2020, versus the same period the year before. However, hijackings only saw a 5% reduction.

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Tracker attributes the decrease in car crime to the fact that there were fewer vehicles on the road compared to the previous year as South Africans continued to restrict their movements to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Most prevalent car crime is hijacking

“Hijacking still attributes a higher percentage of vehicle crime than theft, averaging a 53/47 split, and Tracker calls on the public to remain vigilant at all times.

“The slant towards hijacking is most likely an opportunistic tactic, with a noticeable increase in vehicles being targeted for their loads, particularly fast-moving consumable goods. Drivers carrying large amounts of cash are also being targeted,” Tracker said.

When are you most likely to be a target?

Tracker’s data shows most hijackings are reported between Wednesday and Friday, between the hours of 4pm and 8pm. This correlates with recent insights from the National Hijacking Prevention Academy, which said hijackings peak on Fridays between 4pm and 8pm.

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Thefts, meanwhile, tend to occur between Wednesday and Saturday, but earlier in the day – between 11am and 3pm – according to Tracker.

Johannesburg still the hijack capital

Gauteng remains the car crime capital of South Africa, with hijacking prevalent in Johannesburg and theft mainly occurring in Pretoria. This is followed by KwaZulu-Natal, with Durban in the top spot for hijacking and theft, and the Western Cape with hijacking mainly occurring in Mitchells Plain and theft in Cape Town.

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Other hijacking hotspots include eMalahleni in Mpumalanga, Motherwell in the Eastern Cape, Rustenburg in the North West, Dennilton in Limpopo and Bloemfontein in the Free State and Kimberley in the Northern Cape.


It is important to remember your life is worth more than your vehicle. Also get familiar with the following tips, supplied by the National Hijacking Prevention Academy and Dialdirect.

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Make sure you’re not being followed

If you suspect you are being followed, make a couple of false turns. If someone is still following you, drive to the nearest police station.

Some basic housekeeping rules

These include knowing your neighbours and what cars they drive, keeping your driveway free of places where perpetrators can hide and ensure the area is well-lit. Also be sure to lock your doors when you’re driving.

How to safely enter your property

If your gate is automatic, stop in the road parallel to the gate, if possible, to give yourself an escape route. Once the gate is fully open, turn in and stop on the other side of the gate and wait for it to close. You want to avoid being followed into your property, as a hijacking could turn into a house robbery.

If you don’t have an automatic gate, you need to check it’s safe before exiting your vehicle and Dialdirect advises leaving the key in the ignition, but with the car door closed, so that a perpetrator doesn’t have to approach you in order to take the vehicle.

Plan your route

Plan your route carefully to avoid driving at unsafe times, through unsafe areas, or coming to a stop / driving slower, and thus becoming an easier target. Alternate your habits and routes to avoid being a predictable target.

Be smart with how you stop

Motorists are advised to approach red traffic lights slowly so that a complete stop might be avoided. When stopping behind a vehicle at a traffic light or stop sign, make sure you can see its rear tyres touch the road surface. This will make it more difficult to be boxed in.

What if you get bumped from behind?

If your vehicle is bumped lightly from behind, don’t pull over immediately. If the bump wasn’t hard enough to have damaged the vehicle, and you feel that there might be a threat, indicate to the vehicle behind you to follow you to a place of safety such as a petrol station or police station.

Watch out for bogus police

If you’re followed by a vehicle with a blue light it’s best to reduce your speed, switch on emergency lights and indicate that they must follow you to a safe place such as a police station (your intentions must be very clear and understandable). Do not, under any circumstances, drive home.

If you are confronted by a hijacker:

Put your hands up immediately to show that you’ve surrendered.

Don’t speak too fast and do not make sudden movements.

Do not lose your temper, threaten or challenge the hijacker and to exactly as you’re told.

Don’t resist, especially if the hijacker is armed. Surrender your vehicle and move away.

Be sure not to reach for your purse or valuables. Leave everything in the vehicle.

Don’t make eye contact with the hijacker. They may perceive this behaviour as a threat.

How to exit the vehicle

Use your left hand to unlock the door and use the same hand to undo the seatbelt and put the car out of gear. With an automatic vehicle, just pull up the handbrake. When getting out of your vehicle, turn your body sideways, lift your shoulders and use your hands and arms to cover the head / neck area. Move away from the vehicle immediately. Keep your hands still and visible to the hijacker, to give them assurance of your passive consent.

What if your child is in the vehicle?

If you have a child in the vehicle, you may want to reach through between the seats to retrieve the child, or if you don’t feel comfortable doing this, you may exit the vehicle and open the door behind you immediately. Step into the vehicle with your right leg and foot and lean across to retrieve your child.

IOL Motoring