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Hijacking insurance claims down

16 January 2006 Gerhard Genis

Car hijackings in South Africa are dropping in the wake of tough new action by police and a clampdown on re-licensing of stolen vehicles much to the relief of the public and insurers.

Gerhard Genis, Head of Santams Claims Administration says, Hijackings cost the SA insurance industry around R350m every year. Although we are paying out more in terms of motor claims due to more accidents and increasing vehicle repair costs, volumes of hijackings in Gauteng are down by about 33% according to latest SAPS figures, which is good news for the South African economy at large. (SAPS will release figures on the rest of the country on 24 January)

One of the main reasons hijacking has decreased is due to the anti-hijacking police unit and the launch of Operation Ngena, which specifically targets hijacking syndicates. Between May and October 2005, this initiative arrested 2385 suspects.

A tightening of the vehicle registration process has also made it more difficult for stolen vehicles to be registered and therefore harder for criminals to sell them. To register a vehicle, proof of purchase is required, as well as a registration certificate (in the sellers name) and, if the vehicle has been altered or rebuilt a police clearance certificate is required, among other documentation, before re-registration will be granted.

In SA insurance policies differ between insurers but, as a rule of thumb, most motor policies will provide cover for theft and hijacking unless it is specifically excluded.

We urge policy holders to double check their policies to ensure they are not left in the cold should their vehicle be hijacked. Also, some motor-only policies will not always provide cover for possessions in the car when hijacked so its definitely worth checking this as well.

Over and above checking car insurance, Genis lists several ways to help prevent and protect yourself from falling victim to hijacking, provided by the International Association of Auto Theft Investigators who regard the following as best practice:

Place an anti-theft security sign on your vehicle indicating that your car has a security system or has a tracking system installed.

When approaching your vehicle make sure that you have your car keys close by (never in your hand, as this would signal to criminals that you are about to open your vehicle). Always be aware of your surroundings and take a good look around for any suspicious looking characters before opening your car door. If you notice any suspicious behavior immediately start walking in the opposite direction away from your vehicle towards the nearest shop or office in the area to secure your safety. Call the police if the suspicious character hangs around.

Once in the car, lock your doors.

If you notice that someone is following you by car, try to keep enough distance between you and your pursuer to ensure adequate maneuverability.

Dont ever bring your vehicle to a standstill if you think you are being followed.

In case of a collision, never step outside your car. Wait for the pursuer to approach you. Then roll down your window slightly, just enough to speak to one another. If the situation feels suspicious rather drive away and alert the police via your cell phone once you are a safe distance away. Dont ever step out of your vehicle.

Never speed towards a red light, rather approach it slowly as to avoid stopping at the red light. In most cases it would have turned green before you reach it.

If you suspect you are being followed, take a different route home. If you still havent lost your pursuer, keep driving and head for your nearest police station. Do not stop your car for any reason as this gives your pursuer the ideal opportunity to hijack your vehicle.

When you are a victim of car-hijacking, dont put up a fight, just try to make as many quiet observations about the hijackers as possible without making them feel you are staring at them. Immediately after the hijacking report it to the police and provide them with as many facts as you can.

Dont ever threaten your hijackers - chances are you or your passenger/s will end up seriously hurt or dead. A vehicle is replaceable, your life isnt.

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