- Car Safety & Safe Driving
CARJACKING, Are You Next? 6 Ways To Avoid It
Use Your Exit Plan (See Plan 2)
U.S. Criminal Justice Statistics
Now You Will Have A Plan
Carjacking has become such a common occurrence that the word “carjacking” ,an amalgamation of “highjacking”, is now an official word in Webster’s Dictionary defined as
“the forcible taking of a car while the driver is in it; the robber may force the driver out, force the driver to drive while under threat of harm, or be forced to relinquish the controls while also being forced to remain in the car. In the latter two cases, the act also constitutes a kidnapping.”
This crime has become so prolific that the Federal Government passed a law in 1992 making carjacking a federal offense, which prompted the FBI to form an investigative task force.
The US Attorney’s Office quotes the penalty for carjacking: “The charge of carjacking carries a maximum potential penalty of 15 years in prison; 25 years in prison if serious bodily injury results; and life in prison or the federal death penalty if death results, as well as a $250,000 fine. The felon in possession charge carries a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.”
It is clear that we must add an absolute awareness plan to our driving skills to avoid becoming a shooting or kidnap victim. We also have an obligation to protect others riding in our vehicle as well.
There are several simple rules that every driver can instinctively add to their daily driving habits, especially when driving alone, at night, or specifically in cities with signal lights and stop signs.
The pattern of carjacking is not as random as one might believe. The individuals responsible for this type of crime are constantly looking for a victim that has put themselves in a vulnerable position, such as stopping the car. These individuals are practiced at the art of distraction, and prey on drivers who easily fall into simple yet carefully contrived “traps”. A typical “walk-up” carjacking cannot occur if a vehicle is moving. Therefore if your awareness perceives a possible problem at an intersection, don’t stop your car if at all possible.
1) The single most valuable way to prevent carjacking is to keep your vehicle moving. As your new “Zen” driving awareness improves, you will look farther ahead of your vehicle as it approaches a signal light or stop sign. If the signal light is red, slow down immediately to give the light time to turn green (who cares if the car behind you honks, it’s your life, be cool, wave them by) then catch up quickly to make it through the green light. Driving in the middle or far left lane will give you better odds of either making it through the intersection or at least being the first vehicle in line at the red light. There is a very good reason to be first in line.
2) We all need to provide ourselves with an exit route if our vehicle must stop near an intersection of questionable safety (flyers being given to drivers, people loitering, groups of young men walking or standing nearby, roses being sold, etc). If you must stop behind a vehicle, always leave enough room between you and the car in front of you so that you can move your vehicle quickly out of line. As you approach the stopped vehicle in front of you, always stay back far enough so that you can easily see the rear tires touching the ground over your hood. Scan to your left and right to determine where you would go if you had to hit the gas and leave quickly. As you become more aware of your surroundings, you will see gaps between cars, or a lane that provides a better exit. At this moment you are in the most dangerous position, a stopped car. For these few minutes, you and every one of your passengers are in great danger. If possible, try to be the first in line, because now you have the ultimate exits available to you. No relaxing though, you still must look for where you would go if forced to run a red light or turn in front of other cars for a very fast exit. Remember, your car is your safe haven, and it is also your best and most powerful weapon. Is the carjacker standing in front of your car pointing a gun at your face? He has made a big mistake, because he is now threatening you with a deadly weapon and you have the right to defend your life with a very big car. Go for your exit with all the speed and power your car has, and don't look back.
3) Always keep all doors locked and windows up, even if you do not have air conditioning, it’s only for a few minutes of safety. Always leave the car in gear or drive mode, never in neutral or park. These doors and windows, for the safety of all, should not be opened for anyone but a law enforcement officer while the vehicle is stopped. You have the ultimate power and right to determine whether to open your windows or doors. Based on all of my years of security experience I am advising that you never open them, even if a person approaches with a weapon screaming “Put your window down now!”, or “Get out of the car!” Hopefully you see this coming, but usually a carjacker will approach from the rear near your mirror “blind spot”. Regardless, you yell to your passengers “everybody down”, hit the gas and go for your exit route as fast as possible and leave the scene without hesitation. Never, ever, allow yourself or any passengers to get kidnapped, as the likelihood of survival is very low. If you open your door to an armed or unarmed person, you are no longer in control. Whether you have to crash your way between cars, jump the curb, drive down the sidewalk, run a red light, or drag this armed person as he hangs onto your door handle (we can only hope), it is all worth it to save your life or maybe a member of your family. Remember, there is no carjacking a moving vehicle, and you are now moving. Will this armed person shoot at the rear of your car? Remember, his carjacking attempt is over and you are speeding away, he is probably unfamiliar with his weapon to accurately hit anything that is moving, therefore the odds are in your favor.
4) Where will you go? If you are in your home town, directly to the local police department (while you are calling 911). Do you know where the police department is? Have you programmed it into your GPS? Take the few minutes to write down the address, and program it into your GPS. If you are out of town, you have two choices, head for the highway and keep going until you can contact law enforcement (while the car is moving), or if you happen to know a large crowded store is nearby (Wal-Mart, Home Depot, etc), drive right up to their front door and unload everyone into the store for the emergency call to the police.
5) If a vehicle bumps you from behind, what will you do? Curse, leave your baby in the car and walk back to this vehicle? No, do not get out of the car, as this is a common trick used every day because it works so well. This bump should be an emergency signal to your brain to be sure all the doors are locked and windows up. The worst of all circumstances are 2 young men in the car behind you, because as one distracts you, the other jumps in your car and drives off (there goes your now kidnapped child), and you are left alone in the street as the “distraction person” drives off in his car. If you are at all suspicious and have time, take a few pictures through the back window with your cell phone, call 911, and drive to the nearest police station or large occupied store. A similar trap will be obvious now that you are thinking defensively, a vehicle with two or three young men abruptly pulls in front of you and slams on their brakes. You do the same, and hit their rear bumper. Of course you are at fault now, and a very angry young man is running towards your vehicle demanding that you get out and look at the damage. Do not open your door or lower the window. Call 911 immediately, and stay on the line until a law enforcement officer arrives. If you are now looking at a weapon, it is time for lots of gas in reverse and exit the scene to the nearest crowded store. Yes, it is against the law to leave the scene of an accident, but not if you feel threatened.
6) A carjacker may attempt to break a window to gain entry and startle the driver long enough to gain control. This act would startle anyone, but it should also trigger your instinct to exit the area immediately as fast as possible (remember your exit route?). There also exists a clear or tinted film that can be installed on your vehicle windows that will provide a high degree of protection against this kind of window breakage attack. I do not endorse any particular company here, but the YouTube video provided in this article is very informative. I have seen this film cost approximately $400.00 for a standard car, without installation labor. If you cannot avoid a high risk driving route, the protection film may be inexpensive when compared to your safety. I have consulted for many high risk firms that install this film on their office windows, store fronts, homes, and vehicles. It works.
You must plan ahead, be aware, and if you can’t keep your vehicle moving, have an emergency exit plan.
You may see advice recommending that you give up your keys and let the carjacker have your car. I do not agree, as there are too many variables that could happen when you open your door.
- For instance, you are now a witness and nobody wants to leave a witness behind. Therefore he kills you before driving away or kidnaps you or leaves you standing in the street for the second car in this incident to kidnap you.
- What about your passengers? They are now kidnapped and you may never see them again.
Because of my Martial Arts background, I’m often asked “Tell me about all the fights you have been in”, and I respond sometimes with this Chinese proverb learned from an instructor “The greatest victory, is the battle not fought”.
Your greatest victory will be planning, practicing, and preparing for a dangerous carjacking, and then succeeding in avoiding it.