5 things to do when you’re being hijacked, including a swift seatbelt manoeuvre

On average, 45 cars are hijacked every day in South Africa. As difficult as it may be, let go of your car, says a defensive driving expert. He also shares a seat belt manoeuvre that could save your life.

With an average of 45 cars hijacked every day, worrying about being attacked in your car is a gloomy, but unfortunately not misplaced, past-time in South Africa.

Derek Kirby, Ford South Africa’s advance and defensive driving expert, has one top tip when it comes to surviving a hijacking: “Remember that the car is insured!”

Be prepared to hand over your car without any quibble. But don’t do it too hastily – sudden movements can also be dangerous.

Here is his five-step guide to emerge from a hijacking unscathed:

1. Lift both hands up right away.

Derek Kirby, training director at Ford South Africa’s Driving Skills For Life Centre with both hands raised up. (Photo: Timothy Rangongo/Business Insider SA)

Lift both your hands up and spread your ten fingers wide apart to show you’re not holding anything, which sends a message that you are not a threat to the hijacker(s).

2. The seat belt manoeuvre.

In such a high-stakes situation, one wrong or quick move could potentially lead to the pulling of a trigger out of panic. With both hands still raised, slowly reach for your seat belt with the left hand and rest it above your left thumb.

Reaching for the seat belt with your left hand and hooking it with the thumb – while the right hand remains raised. (Photo: Timothy Rangongo/Business Insider SA)

Once you’ve reached for the seat belt, pull it forward using your left thumb with the four idle fingers spread, again, to show that you’re not holding anything.

Pulling the seat belt forward using the left thumb. (Photo: Timothy Rangongo/Business Insider SA)

And then gently slide down the seat belt with your left thumb to the buckle and unbuckle it (with the right hand still raised up – to show you’re not pulling any funny moves).

Sliding down the seat belt with the left thumb to unbuckle it. (Photo: Timothy Rangongo/Business Insider SA)

3. Pull the handbrake and put you car into park or neutral gear.

Pulling the handbrake and putting the gear in park or neutral, while the right hand remains raised. (Photo: Timothy Rangongo/Business Insider SA)

4. Unlock the door.

Unlocking the door, with the right arm still raised. (Photo: Timothy Rangongo/Business Insider SA)

With the right hand still raised, unlock the door with your left hand. “In most case, as you unlock the door the hijacker might be very kind to open the door for you,” says Kirby.

5. Step out of the vehicle.

Exiting the vehicle with both hands raised up looking down. (Photo: Timothy Rangongo/Business Insider SA)

Exit the vehicle with both hands raised up and keep your head down. “Let them in the car and allow them to drive off because remember – it’s insured,” Kirby emphasises.

Another important tip Kirby shares is that you should leave the key in the ignition. Don’t just leave it in the car, because the hijackers may not find it. They’ll most probably return and not in the best of moods or ask for the key nicely when they get back.

Also, if you have passengers, they must try to exit using the same door as the driver,” advises Kirby. This gives the hijacker a greater sense of control. 

Derek Kirby says passengers, including those seated in the back of the vehicle should all come out of the same door as the driver. (Photo: Timothy Rangongo/Business Insider SA)

How to prevent a hijacking from happening in the first place? Stay aware at all times. “Most hijackings happen at the house just as you’re arriving, so make sure that you’re not followed home especially when you enter a residential area.”