Make no mistake about it – carjacking is a potentially violent theft of your vehicle that could cost you your life. It’s no time to be a hero. And, if you have full coverage insurance, your auto insurance will cover your loss, which is why you need to keep your head, if confronted.
While highly sophisticated and supposedly impenetrable new anti-theft devices and alarm systems have made our cars more secure to theft from conventional thieves, they have unfortunately created a violent alternative – carjacking. Learning how to prevent this crime is important for all drivers.
What is Carjacking?
It’s when someone forcefully, and often with a weapon, takes your vehicle.
Often with a gun in hand, the criminal will terrorize unsuspecting motorists to turn over their wheels under the threat of physical harm. Then, they speed away, leaving their frightened victim behind to contemplate what just happened and call the police.
A mishandled situation can put your life and your passengers’ safety at risk. Knowing how to avoid becoming the victim can be valuable information.
Paying Attention is How to Prevent Carjacking
Are you more vulnerable than most people to be victimized? Coming face to face with an armed thief depends on a number of factors, including the crime rate where you live or work.
It used to be that being in a certain part of town raised your risk of vulnerability to a crime, but that’s not true anymore. Criminals are going where the perceived loot is – and that means the wealthier parts of town. Of course, if you are driving in a sketchy part of town, you can reduce your vulnerability by having a passenger, driving in the center lane when possible and not stopping too closely to the driver in front of you.
However, the best way to reduce your vulnerability is to remain highly aware at all times. Here are some more tips:
- Bring along a friend when you must drive in high-crime areas. Criminals are deterred by two people. Use a “Baby on Board” sign in the window (even if you don’t have one) – most would rather not take off with a baby in tow.
- Keep your car doors locked. Most newer vehicles do that automatically, but if they don’t, always keep the locks on.
- If you can, drive in the center lane. It discourages people from attacking your ride. If you must stop, say at a stoplight, stop sign or in traffic, stay far enough away from the person in front of you that you can pull away from a situation, if necessary.
- Pay attention to your surroundings and to what is happening around you. Now is not the time to zone out to your favorite song on the radio. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey(NCVS), the most common locations for a carjacking are stoplights, parking lots, shopping malls, gas stations, car washes, convenience stores, ATMs, hotels, valet parking, fast-food drive-thru, and outside of retail stores.
- If you live a gated community, don’t box yourself in between the street and the gate – especially after dark. Leave some room for escape if necessary or park on the street until the gate is open.
- You are most vulnerable to a carjacking when you enter and exit. Again, be aware of your surroundings. If something looks weird or you get a funny feeling in your gut when approaching your vehicle, back off and leave. Trust your instincts. If you are in your car and something looks fishy, lock your car doors and drive away. If you cannot drive away because someone is blocking you, lay on the horn. Residential driveways are potential crime scenes. Make sure you are aware of what’s happening before you unlock your door and get out.
If someone attempts to block you in, lay on the horn. If that doesn’t help, you may have to use physical force and drive into them. It’s not an optimum situation and this isn’t a tactic to use unless you are 100% sure the person blocking you is attempting to carjack or otherwise harm you. If someone stands in front of your auto and someone else is coming up on the side, you may have no choice but to take the offense. Remember, you may be possibly saving your life.
What Should I Do if I Become the Victim of Carjacking?
Even when we do everything right, sometimes we just cannot avoid a dicey and dangerous situation. First and foremost, if someone is pointing a weapon at you and telling you to get out, just do it. If there are other people in your vehicle, especially children, make sure they are out before you vacate. The carjacker typically doesn’t want you or your kids, he just wants your wheels.
Don’t make eye contact with the criminal. The less they feel threatened, the safer you will be.
In a case where the criminal tries to force you to stay in the vehicle or get back in, don’t do it. This is a situation where you might need to fight for your life. If you are taken to a second location, the possibility of being hurt or killed is high. Under no circumstances should you ever let a criminal take you to another location.
Possible Signs of a Carjacking Attack
Car thieves have evolved a multitude of ways to part you from your wheels. Here are some of the more common auto theft tactics and how to prevent them.
Someone hits you from behind. You get out to examine the damage and exchange information. Your car gets stolen.
Avoid the Bump: After the bump, drive somewhere well-lit where there are lots of people. Drive to the nearest police station. Call the police while you are driving to a safe place to stop. When you do stop, turn it off and lock it as you exit. If your life appears to be in danger, give them the keys and run.
The “Good” Samaritan
An “accident” happens and someone appears to be hurt. You stop to help. Your car gets stolen.
Avoid the Good Samaritan: Call 911 to report the accident and assess the situation carefully before leaving your car to help. If others have stopped to help, and the accident appears to be real, it is probably safe to stop and help. Turn it off, lock it and take the keys.
Someone behind you attempts to flag you down by flashing their lights or gesticulating that something is wrong. You stop. Your car gets stolen.
Avoid the Ruse: Don’t stop. Unless you feel something is radically wrong, wait until you are in a safe place before you stop to check.
Potential thieves follow you home and block you in while you are waiting for your gate to open or when you park in your driveway.
Avoid the Trap: Open the gate before you get to it, if you live in a gated community or wait in the street for the gate to open. Be aware of your surroundings when you park in your driveway.
If you find yourself the victim of any of these tricks, always use your cell phone to immediately call for help.
How to Make Your Car Less Vulnerable to Crime
We’ve been talking about carjacking, but auto crime that can drive up your insurance premiums can also consist of having your vehicle stolen or otherwise vandalized. There are some steps you can take, such as never leaving valuables within sight, as well as products you can buy, that will help you avoid these car theft scenarios.
Some of the more visible anti-theft devices include steering wheel locks, wheel boots and glass etching. Installing audio alarms is also helpful and will likely scare away a potential thief. Other products include a kill switch, which disables the vehicle until a hidden switch is flipped, and GPS tracking systems to help you track your auto if it is stolen.
These devices run the gamut from cheap to very expensive and some of them will take a professional to install. But some of them are fairly low-cost and easily installed. You might even get a break on your insurance if you take these pro-active steps to protection.
Get an Online Quote for Auto Insurance Protection Today
By following these simple rules you can reduce the chances of becoming a victim. And, by comparing companies for the best auto insurance rates, you can keep from paying too much for your coverage. Freeway Insurance can help you with a free online quote for car insurance. Or you may simply call us at (800) 777-5620 or stop by one of our convenient locations.