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Tips to keep you and yours safe

We live in a frenetic world, with a lot on our minds and many distractions. It’s easy to go about routine activities on auto pilot, without much regard for what is happening around us. Often, it is only when something unexpected happens that we stop and consider our surroundings.

Rather than let the world pass by in oblivion, it’s important to be attentive, so that you don’t miss out on life’s special moments, but also to keep safe. Take care when you’re out and about by following these tips:

Driving around

Looking alert while driving may be enough to dissuade criminals. It’s best to know the route to your destination before embarking on a trip, but if you have to use GPS, activate the audio commands and don’t let it distract you while you’re on the road.

At intersections, avoid the distraction of picking up your phone while you are stopped. Not only is this illegal, but it sets you up as an easy target while your attention is diverted from the road and your surroundings. Be careful of engaging with street vendors, because they can distract you and with your car’s window down you are more vulnerable to attack. Also, remain vigilant while driving in slow moving traffic. Your car does not have to be at a complete stop for an incident to occur.

While the car is a great place for a sing-along, don’t let the music keep you from paying attention. Be aware of suspicious vehicles or persons. If you think you’re being followed by another vehicle glance over your shoulder or adjust your rear-view mirror towards them. If this is not enough to dissuade your would-be attackers, either head for a police station or drive to a busy area.

At a service station

Service stations offer a false sense of comfort and safety. It is important not to let your guard down when visiting one.

Stopping to refuel your car is definitely not the time to make calls or check your phone for messages and lose sight of your surroundings. Pay close attention to avoid being involved in a robbery while at the station. You’re an easy target if you’re sitting in your car with the window down and your phone in your hand.

Act in a way that you would if you know you are being watched because you are probably being watched. Rather get out of your vehicle, taking the key with you and locking the doors. Don’t leave your children in the car while you go into the convenience store, no matter how safe it may seem.

In a car park

A car park is another location that is often perceived as safe and secure, especially if it is access controlled and has an abundance of video cameras. Attackers relish the fact that you can become easily distracted and vulnerable when entering or leaving your car. Never sit in a stationary car in a public area. Park and get out, and make sure the doors are properly locked before you walk away. When returning to your car, have your keys ready. Load belongings or shopping into the boot and get children settled into the car as quickly as possible. Drive away immediately.

In a mall

Be present while in public spaces. It only takes a distracted moment for a mobile phone, wallet, bag or child to be snatched away.

Pay attention to children at all times. Carry as little as possible with you, leaving unnecessary bank or store cards and large amounts of cash at home. Keep your wallet or purse in the front pocket of your jacket or trousers. If you have a bag, never leave it on a trolley or pram, rather carry it on you, and place it on your lap while at a restaurant. Avoid walking around with your phone in your hand or leaving it on the table while seated. Rather put it away.

Getting home

We tend to let our guard down as we get closer to home, but this is the time to be extra vigilant. Keep in mind that a large number of hijackings still take place close to home or in driveways. Be alert and on the lookout for suspicious persons or vehicles when leaving or arriving at your home. If it is safe to do so, wait in the road while the electric gate opens, to avoid being boxed in. If you have to get out of the car to manually open the gate, take the key with you if your children are in the car. Once you drive into your property stop just inside the gate to make sure that it closes securely before you park.

It is also a good idea to inform loved ones of times of arrival, especially when travelling late at night. Some tracking services have apps that you can use to share your location with someone close to you, so that they are able to monitor your movements until you arrive safely at your destination.

Using a transport service

Even if you are not driving yourself, remain aware. Make sure that the transport you are taking is the correct one. Check the registration of the car and the identification of the driver. Do a quick check of the car before getting in. If something doesn’t feel right while on the journey, ask the driver to drop you off at the nearest safe stop.

“Don’t let your guard down, pay attention no matter where you are for your safety and wellbeing,” says Duma Ngcobo at Tracker South Africa. “Criminals are most likely to strike when you least expect it. Beware of distractions and complacency or a false sense of comfort and safety. If something doesn’t seem right, or it feels unsafe, trust your gut.”