In the wake of the tragic Short Hills mall shooting that left a 30-year-old man dead in New Jersey, we are reminded that no one is immune to the threat of carjackings.
While there is no guaranteed way to avoid being carjacked, you can still take certain precautions to reduce or minimize the potential of the crime happening to you.
Here are seven carjacking tips every driver should keep in mind:
- Beware of "golden opportunities" for carjackers. Drivers should exercise a heightened awareness of carjacking "hotspots" -- namely, anywhere a driver stops or is forced to slow down, the Los Angeles Police Department warns. This includes stop lights, intersections, parking garages, gas stations, car washes, ATMs, residential driveways, as well as highway exits and on-ramps.
- Drive defensively and with company. Keep windows rolled up, avoid driving alone (especially at night), and drive in the center lane. Also avoid tailgating: When stuck in traffic, at a light, or at a stop sign, keep at least one-half car length open between you and the car in front of you. This will allow you to maneuver the car in case of an emergency, police at Youngstown State University explain.
- Try to keep valuables out of sight. Especially this time of year, it's very common for criminals to spy on you while you're filling your car with Christmas presents, so be aware of your surroundings. The golden rule is to keep attractive items out of plain view, so try to keep them in your trunk, not in the back seat.
- Try not to get stranded in an unfamiliar location. A stranded driver makes for an easy carjacking target, so make sure to regularly maintain your car and try to keep a full tank of gas. Also, keep doors locked and windows shut, no matter how short the distance or how "safe" the neighborhood.
- Take safety precautions after minor accidents. If you are involved in a minor accident and/or you think your vehicle might have been struck intentionally (a "bump and rob"), motion the other driver to follow you to the nearest police station or open business in a well-lit and densely populated area. This is important particularly at night or in remote areas like empty highways.
- Careful where you park. Park in well-lit, high-traffic areas; avoid parking near obstructions such as Dumpsters, large vans or trucks, or anything else that could limit your visibility. Darkness and desolation are a carjacker's best friend.
- Don't argue with a carjacker. If a carjacker threatens you with a gun or other weapon, don't put up a fight. Some police officers even suggest deliberately crashing your car into an immobile object (such as a fire hydrant or stop sign) to draw people's attention to your situation. Flee from your car as soon as possible. Be sure to get a description so you can file a detailed report to police.
As evidenced by the mom who fought off a carjacker, when faced with a genuine carjacking threat, it's important to have a plan. New Year's Day is a popular day for car theft, so be careful during this holiday season.
- NOPD crime prevention: How to avoid being carjacked (The Times-Picayune)
- Real Police or Impersonator? Here's How to Tell (FindLaw's Blotter)
- After a Car Break-In: 5 Keys to Recovery (FindLaw's Blotter)
- 10 Cities with the Worst Car Theft Rates (FindLaw's Blotter)