Tips for protecting your children in a hijacking

Crime stats revealed in the recent Tracker Vehicle Crime Index show that South Africans are more likely to lose their cars in a hijacking than through vehicle theft. In this blog post, we give you a few life-saving tips on how to keep your children safe during a hijacking.

Recorded from Tracker’s more than 1.1 million installed vehicle base, statistics indicate that during the second half of 2020, car theft decreased by 21%, while hijacking saw a 5% reduction. 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. Click here to read the full Tracker Vehicle Crime report.

One of the most terrifying scenarios for any parent is being hijacked with young children in the car. The good news is most hijackers are interested only in the car and possibly your possessions. In fact, having children in the car is sometimes a deterrent to hijackers. However, if you are ever hijacked when children are with you, these tips might help keep all of you safe.

  1. If your child is old enough, try a roleplaying scenario with your child to practice the next few steps together. Tell them to always keep calm and to keep their eyes on you if a hijacking occurs. Make a game out of it so your child is not stressed unnecessarily.

  2. Teach older children how to unbuckle their seatbelts and explain that this is for emergencies only. Also deactivate child safety locks.

  3. The best way to seat children in the car is as follows: Older children who are in booster seats and able to undo seatbelts themselves, should sit directly behind the driver. This will make it easier to help your child out of the car. If there are two children, the younger child should be seated behind the passenger seat. 

  1.  Remain calm. Do not lose your temper or show any signs of aggression. Do not look the hijacker in the eyes.

  2. Turn the car off and try to keep the key in your hand. This could be your bargaining tool to get the children out of the car.

  3. Do not make any sudden movements, keep your hands visible and use your hands to indicate to the hijacker that you have children in the car.

  4. Do not put up a fight. Tell them they can have the car, but you are getting your children first. If possible, do not get out of the car without your children. Remember the hijacker is nervous and time is precious for them, so do not give the hijacker the chance to climb into the driver’s seat before you have your children with you.

  5. Use your hands to indicate to the hijacker that you are going to unbuckle your seatbelt and unlock the doors. If you have central locking, remember to unlock all the doors. 

  6. Lean towards the back to undo the seatbelt of the youngest child, pulling the child by their clothes to the front. Put the youngest child against your chest. If your older child is able, they should climb to the front with you, to exit the car while holding your hand. Alternatively, they should open their door and climb out of the car and move to safety. (Practice this beforehand.) 

  7. Once you have your children, open the door, swing both legs out at the same time, so you are firm and steady on your feet, and step away from the vehicle with the side of your body towards the hijackers. Do not expose your back to the hijackers because your organs are more exposed from the back.

  8. In this life and death situation, it might be difficult to remain calm, but the hijackers are probably as scared and as nervous as you are. Show them you are not a threat but that your children are a priority. 

Remember to make notes immediately after the incident to help the police in their investigation. Take note of the following:

  • The number of hijackers involved
  • What they were wearing
  • What they looked like, especially any distinguishable features
  • What language they spoke
  • What direction they drove in
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