Last year, we explained how vehicle vandalism rates spike around Halloween and provided tips to help keep your vehicle safe. But a bent antenna or a broken taillight is one thing; being held at gunpoint in a carjacking is another. Follow these tips against carjacking to stay safe year-around.
Early one morning last April, Michael Knox was dropping a friend off in his Atlanta neighborhood. Knox pulled his Nissan Altima into the driveway and was promptly approached by a man claiming to be a stranded motorist. He opened the window slightly, only to be faced with the barrel of a pistol. A second vehicle wheeled across the end of the driveway, blocking him from reversing away from the danger. Knox was being carjacked. He recounted the feelings of fear and frustration – along with the sheer danger – of being a victim of such a crime.
“I was nine houses down from where I live,” Knox explained. “It was about 6:30 in the morning. A guy came across the front of the car and up to the driver’s window. He said he had a flat tire, and was asking for help.
“I cracked the window to hear him. I thought, ‘I’m on my block, so it has to be someone from the neighborhood.’ When I cracked the window to hear him, he forced his gun into the car. A second person appeared, too. When another vehicle pulled across the end of the driveway, there was nowhere I could go. I followed his instructions and got out.
“They ordered me face-down on the ground, went through my pockets, and took my phone and wallet. Then I heard the car driving off. The whole thing took maybe two minutes.”
Unfortunately, carjacking is more common a crime than one would hope. Some estimates suggest about 38,000 carjackings occur every year in the U.S. Knox’s experience fits the typical profile of the crime: carjacking occur mostly in urban areas; most perpetrators use a weapon; most victims are male.
Learning to avoid a carjacking can help drivers prevent becoming a victim. But if you do find yourself being held up for your vehicle, following some sensible guidelines can help you survive.
How to Avoid Being Carjacked
- Leave some space. When you stop behind another vehicle, leave half a car length (you should be able to see the tires of the car ahead) so that you can maneuver around it.
- Keep your windows up and doors locked.
- Stay alert and aware. If you feel uncomfortable or notice an unwelcome stranger approach your vehicle, leave the area.
- Think twice before helping a stranded motorist. Carjackers sometimes use a ruse to trap victims.
- If another vehicle bumps your car or truck, find a safe, well-lit place with other people around to stop. Don’t immediately get out of your vehicle.
How to Survive a Carjacking
- Assess the situation. If the perpetrator is immediately violent and confrontational, attempt to get away – even run if you can – to reduce the possibility of harm.
- If the perpetrator is non-confrontational or non-aggressive, give up your vehicle freely and comply with their instructions.
- Keep your hands in view and don’t make any sudden moves.
- If you have children present, let the carjackers know. Theye may not be aware of others in the vehicle.
- Get to a safe place as quickly as possible and call law enforcement.
Fortunately, Knox was not hurt during his incident. His vehicle was later recovered, albeit with several thousand dollars in cosmetic damage. But personal safety is clearly the most important concern in a crime such as carjacking. Knowing how to prevent and survive a carjacking will help any driver to preserve his or her personal safety.
Nick Palermo is a freelance automotive writer and NAPA Know How blogger. Since becoming an auto news and reviews contributor at AutoTrader.com in 2011, he has broadened his coverage of the automotive industry to include topics like new car technology, antiques and classics, DIY maintenance and repair, industry news and motorsports. A committed advocate for automotive media professionals, Nick is a member of the Greater Atlanta Automotive Media Association.