danger signs: what to do if you are hijacked with your children in the car

Hijackings are an unfortunate reality in South Africa. You never know how you’ll react in a high-stress situation like this so it’s best to mentally prepare yourself with the correct procedure so you know how to best protect yourself and your children in the event of a hijacking. The National Hijack Prevention Academy (NHPA) offer a number of courses, including Hijack Prevention & Safety Awareness – click here for more info on the course.

When are you most likely to be hijacked in South Africa?

Statistics have shown that you’re most likely to be hijacked between the hours of 4pm and 8pm as you arrive home. More hijackings happen on a Friday than on any other day and the most likely location for a hijacking is your own driveway.

How to prevent a hijacking situation in South Africa

  • Don’t drive distracted and always be aware of your surroundings. Keep an eye out for people standing in or near the road and check your rearview mirror regularly. Don’t pull into a driveway until the gate has opened and always scan the road around you before you stop.
  • Don’t stop on the side of the road to use your phone or check directions – and keep all valuables out of sight in the boot.
  • When pulling up at a stop street or traffic light, keep space between you and the car in front of you so you are able to manoevre out of the situation if you need to.
  • As your risk of being hijacked is highest as you pull into your home’s driveway, turn off the radio or music, approach with caution, assessing your surroundings for any suspicious people or cars.
  • Keep your driveway area well lit and free of places where potential hijackers can hide.

ALSO READ: Everything you need to know about buying a car seat for your child

What to do if you are hijacked with your children in the car in South Africa

Wondering what to do if you have your children in the back seat when you are hijacked? First, try to remain calm, keep all your movements slow but deliberate and follow this expert step-by-step safety advice.

  • The hijacker will approach the driver’s side of the vehicle and bang on the window. There may be another hijacker in a getaway vehicle, and one or two acting as lookout.
  • Stay as calm as possible, avoiding eye contact and comply with their demands. Your vehicle is replaceable, your life – and those of your family – are not.
  • Put your hands up to show you are unarmed and are prepared to comply. When raising your hands, slide your right hand under the seat belt so that you will not get tangled in the seat belt as you exit.
  • Indicate to the hijacker that you want to undo your seat belt, do so and let it retract out of the way.
  • If you have children in the back, use your right hand (the one closest to the hijackers) to point to the back seat to indicate that there are children in the vehicle that you will be helping to get out.

NOTE: Once you’ve vacated the driver’s seat, you have effectively handed the car over to the hijacker. You will not have enough time to get out and undo your child’s car seat harness from the passenger seat behind you. For this reason, it’s important that you take your children with you when you exit. If for some reason you are pulled out of the car and your children are still inside, take the car key with you as this will become your ‘bargaining tool’.

  • All children should exit the car over you via the driver’s door.
  • Seat your youngest child behind the passenger seat so that you can reach over, undo the car seat buckle and pull your child towards you.
  • The oldest child should be seated behind the driver’s seat. If they’re old enough to do so themselves, they should climb over you and exit the vehicle first, followed by the child on the middle seat, then you pull the youngest out with you. Tell your children to avoid making eye contact with the hijackers.
  • If there is a passenger in the passenger’s seat, they should leave the vehicle at the same time as the driver.
  • Unlock the door only when you are holding your children and are ready to leave the car.
  • When exiting the car, swing both your legs out and place your feet firmly on the ground – this is to help you maintain your balance and avoid tripping.
  • While still holding your child, move away from the vehicle. Don’t turn your back on the hijacker as it makes you vulnerable. Try to present your side to them as this is safest.
  • Call the police and notify your tracking company.

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Information courtesy of NHPA Training Academy. 

Peggie, the founder of Wheel Well, is a committed advocate for child rights in road safety and founded Wheel Well in 2012 with the help of Eugene Herbert from MasterDrive. The Car Seats for Kids campaign has been running for seven years, and more than 8 500 children have benefitted from a safe, clean used car seat. Since Peggie started her work with Wheel Well, the death toll of our children in traffic-related crashes have come down by 24%. Their work for children in road safety has expanded to include children in public transport and children as pedestrians. Peggie has been awarded the Prince Michael International Road Safety Award in 2016 in the Safer Road User category. She has also received the Gumtree Women in Autos Award for extraordinary contribution to the Automotive Industry in 2018 and is a finalist in the Woman of Stature Awards 2019.