Protect Yourself From Carjackers

Carjacking -- when a car is taken by force or threat of force. It's one of the most frightening, violent, senseless crimes imaginable. Like most offenses, carjacking is a crime of opportunity. Carjackers are looking for easy targets -- unlocked cars with unsuspecting motorists. A few simple, common-sense precautions can dramatically reduce your chances of becoming a victim. Carjacking occurs for many reasons. For instance, anti-theft devices have made it more difficult to steal parked cars. Sometimes, carjackers nab a vehicle to flee a crime scene, transport themselves to another crime or sell the car to feed a drug habit.

A carjacking can occur during any time of day, in a high-crime neighborhood or a well-traveled business district -- whether you are entering, driving or exiting your vehicle. Here are some preventive guidelines to help protect you against carjackers:

When approaching your car:

Keep your car locked at all times, whether you are in it or not.

Carry a small flashlight to check dark areas.
Don't dawdle. Move confidently and quickly.
Have your keys in your hand.
Check to make sure no one is hiding in or under your car.
Be aware of occupied cars nearby.
If someone is loitering around your car when you approach it, keep walking, then wait until they leave before returning.
When parking your car:

Drive into your garage front first so the headlights illuminate the total area.

Park in a well-lighted area at night.

While driving:

Be alert to what is going on around you at all times. Daydreaming or a moment's distraction can put you in jeopardy.

Plan your route.
Try not to travel alone.
Avoid trouble spots.
Keep your doors locked and your windows closed.
Allow enough room between your car and the car in front of you so you can maneuver quickly if you need to step on the gas and get away.
Avoid the curb side line whenever possible. Carjackers can break a window, unlock the door and be inside within seconds.
Avoid idling your car in neutral. You might have to move quickly.
Keep your wallet or purse out of view while you are driving.
Be careful at stoplights and on interstate ramps. Carjackers often bump into the back of a car in order to get the driver to pull over.
If you are bumped from behind and it seems suspicious, motion to the driver to follow you. Proceed at a slow, but steady pace to the nearest gas station, police station or well-lit, populated area.
If you're going home and you think someone is following you, drive around the block.

When getting out of your vehicle:

If you suspect something is wrong, don't get out.

Be aware of your surroundings before you exit your vehicle.
Leave your doors locked until you have observed your surroundings and are ready to exit your vehicle.
At home, make sure the garage door is down before exiting.

If someone tries to take your car:

Don't panic. Avoid confrontation.

If your windows are up, your car is locked and you can maneuver out of the way, hit your horn and step on the gas.
If you're confronted while getting into your car, cooperate and move quickly away from your car.
If the carjacker has a weapon, give up your car immediately. Do not resist. You could be injured -- or worse. Your life is more important than your car.
Don't reach for your purse or anything else in the car. The carjacker may think you are reaching for a gun and shoot you.
Take careful note of the carjackers' physical characteristics and direction of travel.
Get to a phone and dial 911 immediately.