South African road users need to develop a broader understanding of road safety, including crime awareness, if they are to make the country’s roads safer.
This is the view of Pierre Bruwer, managing director of tracking company Netstar, who encouraged drivers to be vigilant against all threats to their safety – not just traditional road safety challenges like speeding.
“Whilst our crime levels are quite high in South Africa , there are a number of things we can do to make ourselves safe on the roads,” said Bruwer.
“Anyone who wants to be safe on the road needs to take that into account. It’s vital that we follow the rules of the road, but protecting yourself, your family and your assets also means being vigilant and protecting yourself against crime.”
The most recent crime statistics released by the South African Police Service showed 4,513 carjackings in the first quarter of 2021 – a 4.9% increase over the same period as last year.
There were also 354 truck hijackings and 42 cash-in-transit robberies.
“These figures point to a broader set of safety threats on South African roads, besides the traditional concerns of speeding, drunk driving and vehicle fitness,” said Bruwer.
Johan Jonck, spokesperson for Arrive Alive said that the Covid-19 pandemic has lead to a wider variety of road-safety threats. He said that vehicle related crimes are on the rise again, following the end of lockdown.
He said that many people have become desperate in a struggling economy impacted by the virus, leading to rising criminal activity including vehicle theft and hijackings.
“As road users, we need to sharpen up a bit, and think South African,” said Jonck. “For instance, with many roads in poor condition, and the danger of crime, we should reduce driving at night.
“Because of reckless driving by others, we should approach all intersections with caution, regardless of what colour the traffic light is. It’s all about preventative awareness.”
The table below highlights the areas which have had the most hijacking cases reported to their respective police stations in the first quarter over a five year period:
Nyanga in the Western Cape reported the most carjackings (107), followed by Loate in Gauteng (57), and Umlazi in KZN (56).
Chief executive of MasterDrive, Eugene Herbert, said the rise in hijackings should propel drivers to take extra care.
“A consistent rise in hijackings has been seen across the last few crime statistics. This traumatic and financially demanding crime appears to be something South Africans may not see a lowering of in the near future,” he said.
“It is important for drivers to accept that attempting to prevent yourself from becoming a victim depends on your own ability to be aware of risky situations and knowing what to do when you feel at risk. Awareness of your surroundings is the most important tool to prevent yourself from becoming a victim.”
Herbert encouraged drivers to use the information to make informed decisions but to avoid panicking. “If you know that you drive a high-risk car in a high-risk area, it is essential that you follow the basic principles,” he said.
- Make it a habit to always be aware of who is driving behind you and how long they have been there.
- Never turn into a driveway or an isolated area when the same car has been behind you for some time.
- Take note of the people near your driveway when you leave or arrive and if someone is suspicious call police or your security company rather than drive in or reverse despite your instinct.
- Wait parallel to your driveway while the gate opens.
- In shopping centre parking lots, reverse park against a wall so that someone cannot come up behind you while you load your shopping bags.
- If the parking lot is empty, ask a security guard to walk you to your car. At intersections, pay attention to the people standing around.
- Never block yourself in when you stop at a red light but rather give yourself space to make emergency manoeuvres.