A carjacking is an event where someone tries to steal a vehicle by force while that car is occupied. In other words, it’s when someone tries to steal your car even though you’re sitting in it. Carjackers usually have a weapon, and they may use extreme coercion or violence to get their way.
Carjackings don’t get as much attention as other types of crime. Despite this, it’s still a very real problem. And during a widespread disaster, it will get a lot worse because people will either want your car so they can drive somewhere safe or they’ll be taking advantage of the lack of law enforcement.
Because of this, preppers need to know what to do in the event of a carjacking, along with things they can do to avoid one in the first place. Don’t assume it will never happen to you. Anyone can be a victim.
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Facts About Carjackings in the United States:
- There are about 34,000 attempted carjackings per year.
- 45% of attempted carjackings were successful.
- 74% of carjackers used weapons to coerce their victims.
- 68% of carjackings occurred at night.
- 2/3 of victims resisted the offender.
- 1/3 of victims ran away or called for help.
- 14% of victims went to a hospital or doctor.
(Data is from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.)
7 Ways To Avoid Becoming a Carjacking Victim
Here are seven tips to keep in mind to make sure you never get carjacked.
1. Avoid Certain Areas
The best way to avoid becoming a carjacking victim is to completely avoid areas where they are the most likely to happen.
Places where carjackings are more common:
- Urban areas.
- High-crime neighborhoods.
- Traffic lights, stop signs, etc.
- Mostly empty parking lots.
- A residential driveway on a quiet day.
- Anywhere traffic is at a standstill.
- Near banks and ATMs.
Obviously, you won’t be able to avoid all of these areas. But at the very least, they are areas where you want to be on guard, which brings us to the next tip.
2. Practice Situational Awareness
Situational awareness is all about being in the present moment and actively observing your surroundings, as opposed to daydreaming or looking at your phone, for example. Hopefully, you won’t be looking at your phone while driving, but it’s tempting to check it while sitting in traffic, and doing so makes you far more vulnerable.
Other things that make you more vulnerable include eating food, singing along with the radio, changing the radio station, talking on the phone, talking to other people in the vehicle, and so forth. Carjackers love to target people doing things like this because they can stick a gun in their face before the victim even knows what’s happening. Here’s how to enhance your situational awareness.
Instead, make a habit of looking around and regularly checking your mirrors, that way you’ll see a carjacker approaching before he gets too close. Then you’ll have a chance to escape, which brings us to the next tip.
3. Leave Plenty of Space to Escape
It’s wise to keep plenty of distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you when you’re sitting in traffic. At the very least, you want to be able to see the rear tires of the car in front of you. This way, if you need to quickly gun the engine and whip around the vehicle in front of you to avoid a carjacking, you’ll be able to.
In addition to leaving space in front of your vehicle, leave space around you as well by staying in the center lane. This will make it harder for carjackers to box you in and leave you more ways to escape.
And don’t just leave space around you when you’re at a complete stop. Contrary to what most people think, carjackings can also happen when a vehicle is moving very slowly because the driver isn’t expecting it. But to be fair, that usually only happens if the door is unlocked, which brings us to the next tip.
4. Keep Your Doors Locked and Your Windows Closed
Get in the habit of locking the doors as soon as you get into your car, and don’t roll down your windows. If a would-be carjacker sees that your door lock is down or that the window is rolled up, he’s more likely to wait for an easier target.
5. Beware of People Following You
This ties in with #2 above (situational awareness), but I think it deserves its own section.
It’s rare for a carjacker to decide to take your car on a whim. Usually, they’ll watch you for several minutes from a distance beforehand, or they may even follow you for many miles. Carjackers who decide to take a car when someone pulls into the driveway usually do so after following the victim home.
To prevent this, pay attention to the cars behind you. If you notice one that has been behind you for quite a while (even if it’s several cars back), there’s an easy to see if it’s following you. Just take four right turns. This way you’ll go in a complete circle and end up right back where you were. Only someone following you will do the same thing.
If someone is following you, drive to the most public place you can find and park as close to the entrance as possible. Chances are, the would-be carjacker will move on.
The same rules apply if someone is following you on foot. They might be planning on following you to your car so they can steal it. Try to lose them, and if you can’t, find someone (such as a police officer) and ask for help.
6. Be Careful When Going To/Getting In Your Vehicle
While walking to your vehicle, whether in a parking lot or in your own driveway, always keep your keys out so you don’t waste time fumbling with them if someone suspicious approaches.
Also, before getting into your vehicle, check the back seat. Some criminals are able to break into a car but unable to hotwire it, so they’ll hide in the back until you arrive so they can steal your keys.
7. Park in a Well-Lit Area Near the Entrance
Never park in an area that is dark, next to the woods, next to large vehicles, or anywhere that would give criminals cover to attack you. If you park in a well-lit, busy area, they’ll look for an easier victim.
4 Common Strategies That Carjackers Use
If you ever are the victim of a carjacking, it will probably happen when you least expect it. Here are some common tactics that carjackers use.
1. Pretending to Need Help
Sometimes carjackers will pretend to need help so you’ll roll down your window, open your door, or simply let your guard down. They could pretend to need directions, or they could pretend to be homeless and looking for spare change, or they could even walk with a limp to simulate an injury and gain your sympathy. Be just as cautious with people like that as you would with anyone else.
2. Bumping/Hitting Your Vehicle
Another strategy that carjackers commonly use, at least when working in pairs or more, is to bump your vehicle from behind, pretending it was an accident. When you pull over to the side of the road and get out to assess the damage, they will pull over too and one or both of them will attack you and try to steal your vehicle.
If this happens to you but something about the situation doesn’t seem right, stay in your car and call 911 immediately. If they see that you’re on the phone, they may decide to leave.
They could also hit your vehicle with something. This is less common, but I’ve heard reports of it happening in countries with major economic crises, such as Argentina and Venezuela. Carjackers threw bricks and even Molotov cocktails at moving vehicles. When the drivers slammed on the brakes and got out, they were attacked.
If this happens to you in a particularly dangerous area or during a major crisis, don’t fall for it. Keep driving until you’re somewhere safe.
3. Pretending Their Vehicle is Broken Down
One final tactic often used by carjackers is to pretend to be in need of mechanical assistance. This tactic is often used in more rural areas: they’ll be pulled off to the side of the road, their lights will be on to indicate that their car is having issues, and then when you step out to lend a hand, they’ll spring the trap.
Why would they do this if they already have a vehicle? To get a better vehicle or a second vehicle. It’s as simple as that.
You can still help people who need assistance, but you should only do it if you have a couple of people with you, at least enough to outnumber the people on the side of the road.
4. Following/Hiding Until You Get To Your Vehicle
Carjackers don’t just target people in cars; they target anyone or any vehicle that looks like an easy target. That means they might follow you until you get to your vehicle, or they might hide near your vehicle and wait for you to arrive.
To avoid this, just remember the 5th tip above (beware of people following you) and the 6th and 7th tips (be careful when going to/getting in your vehicle and park in a well-lit area near the entrance).
5 Ways to Survive a Carjacking
At this point, you’ve learned how to avoid a carjacking as well as the most common strategies that carjackers use. Based on that information, you have a lot of knowledge on how you can (hopefully) prevent a carjacking from ever happening to you.
But what if it does happen? Here are three things you can do.
1. Press the Panic Button
Most key fobs have a panic button that will make your car honk or sound an alarm. If you press this, then hopefully it will startle the carjacker and he’ll run away.
If you don’t have a panic button, you could install a system such as this Viper 1-Way Car Alarm.
Not only will it enable you to sound a noisy alarm, it also has a FailSafe starter kill system and anti-carjacking mode to stop criminals from stealing your vehicle. Note: You’ll probably need to hire some professionals to install it for you.
2. Run Away
If you’re on foot and someone with a weapon attempts to steal your car (like when you’re entering or exiting your vehicle), just drop your keys and run. I know some people recommend cooperating with the carjacker if he has a weapon, but statistics show that you are far more likely to survive if you run away. They won’t see much point in chasing or shooting you if they already have your keys. Your vehicle can be replaced; your life can’t.
Even if they tell you to get into the car at gunpoint, just run. If you go with them, it’s almost a certainty that something bad will happen to you. But if you run away, there’s a good chance you’ll be okay.
Of course, if you have children in the vehicle who are buckled in and are unable to get out or don’t know to run away, it’s better to stay with them and wait for another opportunity to escape. Never abandon your kids.
If the carjacker is making you drive, there’s something you can do…
3. Crash Your Vehicle
If you were unable to get out of your vehicle in time and you’re being forced to drive, intentionally crash your vehicle on a busy road or at a busy intersection. If you have your seatbelt buckled, you should be all right as long as the crash isn’t too severe (make sure it isn’t). But the carjacker, who probably didn’t buckle up, will be injured.
Even if he isn’t injured, he will probably jump out of your vehicle and run away rather than risk getting caught by the police.
4. Fight Back
This option is dangerous and should only be done if you’re unable to run away and the attacker doesn’t have a weapon. If you put up a big enough fight, he might decide your vehicle isn’t worth the trouble.
You’ll be better able to fight back if you have a weapon. But if you decide to keep a weapon in your car, it needs to be within easy reach of the driver’s seat. The glove compartment is a poor spot for a defensive weapon because of this. Instead, keep it in the center console, underneath the driver’s seat, in between the driver’s seat and the console, underneath the steering wheel, or anywhere you can get it quickly.
But again, only grab your weapon if the attacker doesn’t have a weapon because if he does and he sees you grabbing yours, he might shoot or stab you first.
5. Make It Easy For Help To Find You
I know people value their privacy, but it’s a good idea to turn on location tracking on your phone so your spouse and/or friends can see your location. That way if you’re late getting somewhere, they can see where you are and call you. If you don’t answer and they can see that you’re in an unusual location, they can alert the police.
This can also be done with an app such as Family Locator (available in the Apple Store and Google Play). It shows your designated contacts on a map, that way everyone knows where everyone else is at any given time. There are many similar apps.
Another option is a service such as Kitestring. It regularly checks on you when you’re out and alerts your contacts if you stop responding. This way you can call for help and the carjacker won’t even know it. You don’t even need a smartphone for this one, as it uses text messages.
Carjackings can and do happen, and they will always become much more frequent after a major disaster. So if you’re a prepper, don’t forget to prepare for this, too. Commit the tips in this article to memory and keep yourself safe.