There’s no denying the stress of having your car stolen.
Carjackings, or auto theft while you’re inside or near your vehicle, are even more grueling. They’re also quite dangerous.
While rare, these incidents are on the rise in cities across the U.S.
It’s important to be vigilant—to arm yourself with strategies to stay safe in the event of a carjacking.
What Is Carjacking?
Carjacking is the act of taking a car by force, often while the victim is in the vicinity and the offender is armed with a lethal weapon. These crimes are more common in cities, but they also occur in small towns or even rural areas from time to time.
Why don’t these thieves break into a parked car instead?
While no car theft is desirable (or advisable), violent criminals typically find it easier to steal a car to which they have “easy” access—meaning there’s no need to pry open a door or break a window.
Additionally, many carjacked vehicles are taken to commit other violent crimes, so it’s simpler for criminals to steal the car as quickly as possible.
What Should You Do During a Carjacking?
If an armed carjacker approaches you and shows their weapon, don’t hesitate or argue.
Give up your car immediately, and leave the scene. Take note of your surroundings, make sure you’re safe, and then call the police. Give the authorities the color, make, model, and license plate number of the stolen car so they can work to retrieve it quickly.
It can be challenging to remember what the perpetrator looked like, but you’ll want to report this as well. Be sure to describe their appearance, approximate age, clothing, and any special features they may have.
Carjacking Prevention When Entering Your Car
Preventing a carjacking before it takes place is ideal. In many cases, this includes taking preventative steps even before you get into the car.
First, make sure your cell phone is charged and readily-available in case you need to use it to report an attempted carjacking. Keep it in your pocket (to avoid losing it in a carjacking) and your keys in hand, and then look around the vicinity before getting inside the vehicle. You’ll want to pay close attention to anyone who seems to be loitering nearby.
If you’ve entered your car and need some time before you drive off, lock your doors first. Turn on the AC if it’s hot—avoid sitting with your windows rolled down.
And of course, trust your instincts. If you think something is off, it probably is. Regardless, it’s better to be safe than sorry—potentially offending someone isn’t worth risking your life, or compromising your safety. Drive away if ever you feel uneasy, but always comply when that isn’t an option.
Carjacking Prevention on the Road
Again, your safety is a top priority. If you can prevent a carjacking, however, that’s even better. A great way to do this is to educate yourself on how many carjackers lure their victims. Common tactics include:
· Gently bumping your car (so that you’re forced to pull over).
· Posing as stranded motorists (to entice you to help).
· Flashing their lights (to make it seem like something’s wrong with your car).
You may be tempted to pull over in these cases—which is exactly what the carjacker wants you to do. Instead, stay inside your vehicle with the doors locked. Drive to a public place afterward if you feel threatened in any way.
Other strategies to prevent carjackings while driving include:
· Keeping your doors locked and your windows closed.
· Staying vigilant at all times, but especially when stopping at intersections, ATMs, and gas stations.
· Driving in the center lane (which makes it more challenging for carjackers to approach you).
· Making sure there’s enough room to work your way around other cars when you come to a stop. (A rule of thumb is that you should always keep the rear tires of the car in front of you in full view.)
· Avoid pulling over near a stranger flagging you down. If you’re worried they might be in trouble, park in a public place and call the police for help.
· Refrain from driving alone at night.
You’ll want to be especially vigilant in high-crime neighborhoods, on isolated roads, and at intersections.
Carjacking Prevention When Exiting Your Car
Maybe you’re about to park your car, and something just seems off. You’ll also want to be aware of your surroundings when you exit your vehicle.
Maybe someone seems to be lurking near your parking spot, and they keep looking in your direction.
Or, maybe you see another car follow you into a driveway, isolated gas station, or abandoned parking lot. Call 911 if you sense a threat. If you can, you’ll also want to activate your car alarm using your key fob.
Parking in safe areas is crucial as well. Find well-lit places, ideally near sidewalks, when parking on the street. In parking lots, you’ll want to avoid parking close to dumpsters, wooded areas, and large vehicles that could limit your visibility.
Preventing a carjacking isn’t always possible. With these strategies in your arsenal, however, you can protect yourself and avoid falling victim to a crime that’s unfortunately on the rise.
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