The 16 days of activism against gender-based violence puts the spotlight on women’s safety. An often-over-looked point is women’s safety while driving, however it is important for drivers to be alert and cautious.

Here are some precautions for all motorists, but particularly women travelling alone, to keep in mind. These can help you to stay safe and avoid becoming a crime statistic.

Vehicle maintenance

Ensure that the vehicle you are travelling in is roadworthy. You do not want your vehicle to break down, especially in a deserted area or at night. Service your vehicle when you’ve reached the mileage or annual service interval and make sure you always use a reputable workshop. Check the oil, water, brake fluid levels and tyre pressure regularly. Also, make sure you fill up when the petrol light comes on. People often tend to overestimate how much fuel is left.

Plan routes carefully

Know where you are going and plan your journey in advance by ensuring you have the correct directions to your destination. Have the directions ready or enter the destination in your GPS or preferred navigation app before embarking on your journey to avoid distractions en route and having to stop in a high-risk or quiet area. Always let a family member or friend know where you are headed and your expected arrival and/or departure times.

Care while driving

Always keep your vehicle doors locked and windows closed. Avoid driving with valuables in sight – they are better kept in the boot or under the seats.

While driving, be vigilant about where you are and your surroundings especially when driving in unfamiliar areas. This will help you to avoid a dangerous situation or even an accident. Keep in mind that a large number of hijackings still take place close to home or in driveways so turn off your radio and don’t be distracted by your cell phone when approaching home. Even looking alert might be enough to dissuade potential criminals. If you feel unsafe, head for a police station or drive to a busy area.

When approaching a traffic light, slow down in such a way that a traffic light is green by the time you reach it, especially late at night – this prevents you from having to come to a complete stop and reduces your risk of becoming a target. If you approach your destination and something looks suspicious, rather drive off.

Sensible parking

Always park your vehicle in a well-lit, properly secured parking area, ideally with security guards on duty and as close to entrances and exits as you can. When you leave your vehicle, make sure the doors are properly locked. Never just assume that the remote has in fact locked the doors. The extra few seconds it takes to make sure the vehicle is properly locked and secured are worth it.

Try to walk to and from your vehicle with another person. If you are out alone, consider walking near other people in the parking lot or ask a security guard to accompany you to your vehicle. Have your keys ready when you approach your vehicle and don’t talk on your mobile phone, attackers are relying on you being distracted and vulnerable. Make sure no one is lurking around your vehicle and check the back seat before getting in, then drive away immediately.

Invest in a tracking service

These days, vehicle trackers can offer so much more than stolen vehicle recovery. There are many different types of vehicle tracking services and added features and benefits available to the market that offer greater care and protection for the people that subscribe to them. Premium services can monitor your vehicle and send you notifications on standard risk events and may even offer roadside and medical assistance. With more inclusive services, as the driver you are able to share your journey with a friend or loved one ensuring that they know where you are and that you are safe. Today’s tracking services are an ideal solution for motorists looking not only to protect their vehicle, but to ensure their personal safety.

“It is important for all women to take proactive measures to prevent themselves from becoming a victim of violent crime such as hijacking,” says Ron Knott-Craig, Executive: Operational Services at Tracker South Africa. “Criminals are most likely to strike when you least expect it. Be vigilant at all times whether it’s at night or during the day to ensure that you are aware of your surroundings and able to get away should the need arise. If something doesn’t seem right, or it feels unsafe, trust your gut and ask for help. For example, find out if your security company has a follow me home service and use it if you feel uncomfortable.”