AVOIDING AND SURVIVING A CARJACKING             

Carjacking, a random criminal act in which a perpetrator forcibly removes a driver from a vehicle in order to steal that vehicle, has become a prevalent crime in many parts of the world.  Carjackings are considered “random” because criminals generally do not plan in advance to target a specific driver or steal a specific vehicle.  Their actions are rather dictated by the situation (chance of success) and the vehicle make/model. 

Popular vehicles are preferred targets because they can be sold quickly for spare parts.  The crime location also plays a major part, because in order to complete the carjacking, the perpetrator must a) be able to force the vehicle to stop and, b) have an avenue of escape. 

To protect yourself from becoming a victim of carjacking, it is helpful to become familiar with the typical methods used by such criminals and to introducing specific practices into your driving.
 
AVOIDANCE

The operating methods and preferred target vehicles of carjackers change from city to city and country to country.  By familiarizing yourself with crime statistics of the location you are visiting, you can better predict—and hopefully therefore avoid—when and where a carjacking might take place.

Carjackers must be able to control to some extent their target vehicle, and these areas are easily used to “box in” an automobile while limiting a driver’s escape and evasion options.  Generally speaking, the most common places for a carjacking are:

  • Intersections in high crime areas 
  • Rural roads with little traffic 
  • Isolated areas in parking lots 
  • Residential driveways and gates

Carjackers also frequently use accidents and other staged ploys as a means of convincing drivers to stop their vehicle.   Common methods include:

  • The Bump - An attacker bumps the victim's vehicle with their car from behind. The victim gets out to assess the damage and to exchange information. 
  • The Good Samaritan - The attacker(s) stage what appears to be an accident and may simulate an injury. The victim stops to assist. 
  • The Ruse - The vehicle behind the victim flashes its lights or the driver waves to get the victim's attention. The attacker tries to indicate that there is a problem with the victim's car. The victim pulls over.

If you encounter any of these scenarios while driving abroad, pull over only after you have reached a safe public place. 

PREVENTION

It is not possible to eliminate all carjacking risk, so drivers should remain alert and aware of their environment at all times.  Driving routes are dictated for most of us by routine.  Use that familiarity with the area as an advantage:  note people or vehicles that are out of place, study individuals that appear to be loitering at intersections or in parking lots and use common sense to evaluate every situation.  Constantly ask yourself “what if…” and plan possible avenues for escape and evasion.  Know safe areas to go to in an emergency before you drive.

When you approach an intersection, keep some maneuvering distance between you and the vehicle in front of you so you can escape if necessary; you should always have full view of that vehicle’s rear tires.  When stopped, use your rear and side view mirrors to remain vigilant.  Keep your doors locked and windows up.  This increases your safety and makes it more difficult for an attacker to surprise you.

Individuals who regularly travel to areas with known prevalence of carjackings should seriously consider advanced driver training, which should be composed of classroom and practical modules covering:

  • Criminal/Terrorist Operations – understanding how existing crime patterns can help you preevent future incidents
  • Threat Avoidance - Route Analysis, surveillance detection techniques, surveillance detection exercise
  • Driver Training - Advanced driver training, performance training, finesse maneuvers, evasive and defensive techniques

DURING A CARJACKING

If you become the victim of a carjacking, do not become confrontational.  Keep in mind that the attackers are interested only in the vehicle.  Your reactions should be:

  • Do not stare at the attacker or appear aggressive 
  • Listen carefully to all directions 
  • Do not make quick or sudden movements 
  • Keep your hands in plain view.  Tell the attacker of every move in advance 
  • Make the attacker aware if children are present 
  • Do not attempt to gather personal items 
  • Give up your vehicle freely

AFTER THE ATTACK

Move to a safe place before reporting the incident to local law enforcement.  When making the report, make sure to:

  • Describe the event.  What time of day did it occur?  Where did it happen?  How did it happen?  Who was involved?
  • Describe the attacker(s).  Without staring, try to note height, weight, scars or other marks, hair and eye color, the presence of facial hair, build (slender, large), and complexion (dark, fair).
  • Describe the attacker's vehicle. If possible get the vehicle license number, color, make, model, and year, as well as any marks (scratches, dents, damage) and personal decorations (stickers, colored wheels).
  • Give only that information you remember with absolute certainty.

Assuming that purses, briefcases or similar items were stolen, cancel credit cards and contact your financial institutions to alert them of the possible theft of confidential information.  Also, your address can generally be obtained from the vehicle registration.  If the key to your residence was on the same chain with the car key, it may be necessary to change house locks.