Jul 312013
If your door is locked and window closed, you should never find yourself in a situation like this.

If your door is locked and window closed, you should never find yourself in a situation like this.

This is the second part of a two-part article on carjacking.  If you arrived directly here from a link or search engine, you might find it helpful to first read part 1 – The Risks of Being Carjacked.

The surprisingly good news that we learned in the first part of this two-part article is that only 45% of attempted carjackings succeed, and that your chances of injury halve if you resist the carjacking attempt.

You need to really wrap your mental arms around those two data points.  If you are carjacked, don’t go all limp, defeatist, and become helpless and passive.  Realize that you’re in an unfortunate situation, for sure, but you must also realize your best strategy is to resist rather than cooperate.  Your resistance is statistically likely to succeed, and your chance of personal injury reduces.

So, what should you do when a carjacking attempt occurs?  That depends enormously on what form the carjacking takes, and on your strategic situation.  Best case scenario, someone approaches the car with a knife, you are in the car with the engine running and a clear road ahead, you simply floor the gas pedal and drive off.  End of story.  Oh, not quite – do the world a favor and call it in.  Dial 911 and have the police earn their pay.  Maybe they can find the guy, and maybe he is a repeat offender – or maybe he otherwise would become a repeat offender.

The One Time When You Should Cooperate

If you’re boxed in somewhere and a carjacker gets the drop on you, and is pointing a firearm directly at you, at close range, then all bets are off.

If our window was closed and we knew we could simply stomp on the gas and move off, we’d be tempted to take the risk of being shot at.  The closed window provides a psychological barrier to the attacker (but not to his gun’s bullets!), and carjackers in general don’t want to shoot at/after a fleeing car.  That just draws attention to themselves and ups the charges they might end up facing.

The gun may be, in substantial part a bluff, and if you can quickly leave the scene, you might be okay.  But if you start doing something threatening in response, then the carjacker may be forced into using the gun to defend himself, or may panic or reflexively respond.  Flee if you can, cooperate if you can’t.  It takes a great deal of training to be able to disarm an attacker; don’t try doing it unless you know you’ve had sufficient recent training to be sure of doing so successfully.

The One Time When You Should Always Resist

There is however one situation when you should always resist, whether you’ve got guns pointed at you or not.  That is when the carjacking becomes a kidnapping.

While the carjacking statistics are generally in your favor, if the encounter becomes instead a kidnapping, things have suddenly become a lot less favorable.  Viewed rationally, unless you know you are a high-value kidnapping target who is realistically likely to be kidnapped by professional kidnappers, there are only very bad reasons why a carjacker would want to take you with him.

Never allow yourself to be kidnapped.  The best time to resist an attempted kidnap attempt is when it is first initiated.  At that point, the kidnapper is not yet in charge and control of you and his surroundings.  Things are dynamic and changing, and you are still unrestrained, un-gagged, and so you are best able to do anything and everything to get free.

Don’t worry about whatever the kidnapper might do in response to your resisting.  You need to realize that the chances are very great that they are going to torture, rape, and kill you sadistically anyway.  Nothing will make it worse.  But escaping, even if shot at (and possibly injured) is better than the alternative.  For that matter, being shot and killed quickly while escaping is preferable to suffering hours or days of torture and humiliation and deprivation prior to then being killed slowly.

If the kidnapper foolishly has you drive your vehicle, crash it deliberately.  An ideal speed for a deliberate crash, with your seatbelt on, is 25 – 30 mph – at that speed you are certain to survive, but your car is certain to become instantly undrivable, making it impossible for your kidnapper to continue your kidnap in your vehicle.  The act of crashing will also instantly draw attention to you, and if you’re really lucky, your attacker won’t have his seat belt fastened, so at that speed, he may be thrown about and concussed (but probably not killed).  Needless to say, please crash your vehicle into an inanimate object rather than into another occupied vehicle.  Even just mounting the sidewalk at that speed will probably destroy your suspension and make the car undriveable, even if there’s not a major hard impact.

Less Extreme Situations and Counter Measures

First of all, the best protection of all is to prevent the initiation of a carjacking attempt.  When interviewed subsequently, most carjacking victims say the same thing – they never saw the carjacker until he was at their car.  Just like most other criminals, carjackers prefer to have the element of surprise on their side.

So you need to always be aware of your surroundings and alert for people who could turn out to be threats.  Sometimes carjackers have been quite creative in disguising their presence – they’ve been handing out fliers, for example, a familiar seeming non-threatening activity that causes potential victims to miscategorize them as ‘non-threatening’ and then ignore them.  That might be a big mistake.

You also need to reduce your vulnerability and ‘harden’ your vehicle.  The simplest two things to do are to keep your windows up and your doors locked (use central locking if possible to ensure your passenger doors are locked too).  Doing that makes you safe from pretty much any carjacker except one with a gun.

And thinking about carjackers with guns, they still want to find easy victims, and they don’t want to have to shoot anyone.  An ‘easy victim’ for them is someone with a window open – it is much easier to dominate a victim if their window is open.  Plus, with the open window, they can reach in, grab your steering wheel, grab you, and physically take charge of the situation.  With your window shut, they can point their gun at you, but neither they nor you feel them to be quite so in control.

Don’t think that closed windows and locked doors make you invulnerable.  We know of some carjackings that have been initiated by a carjacker smashing in a window, perhaps using a $7 tool like this (oh, by the way, if you don’t have one yourself, you should have one in your car for emergencies).

So, whenever you are driving, you want to, whenever possible, always keep an escape route open.  You do this by not getting too close to the car in front of you when it stops and you stop behind it.  The rule of thumb is if you can see the bottom of its wheels, then if you need to, you can drive forwards and steer around the stopped vehicle in front of you.  This assumes, of course, you’re not jammed in your lane by other vehicles on either side.

Needless to say, this is the sort of emergency which would justify driving up onto the curb to get away.  But not the sort of emergency that would justify knocking down some pedestrians!

Keep your vehicle as an untempting target.  Cover up anything that might appeal to a carjacker and which would be visible from outside.  Leave handbags on the floor and out of reach, and if you have an SUV, cover anything in its back with the (usually supplied) pull over cover.

If you see anything that feels wrong or out of place, don’t ignore your intuition, but rather reward it and respond to it.  Avoid places you’re not comfortable with.  Don’t park in dark out of the way areas.  And, for sure, always avoid parking next to anonymous panel sided vans.  You’ve no idea who or what is inside that van, and when its side door starts opening next to you, any sort of surprise might be about to greet you.  If a panel van has parked next to your vehicle while you were away, attempt to enter your vehicle from the far side.

When you’re returning to your vehicle, try not to have to turn your back to everything around you – especially if you can only see a little way away – when loading in your shopping and your children.

Also while returning to your car, if there’s someone in the car park between you and your car, change your direction and walk away from them then dog leg around them.  If they start to come towards you and keep doing so as you change your direction of travel, then you know you’ve an unfolding situation and you have time to consider your options, take control of the situation, and if necessary draw your concealed weapon and solve the problem as indicated.

Use discretion where you stop when you’re waiting for someone, and in particular, if possible, still keep your windows closed and your doors locked until the person you’re collecting has arrived at the car.

If someone pulls a knife on you, the first thing you should always consider is simply running away.  If the angles and obstructions allow you to do so, simply bolt.  The guy is a lazy good-for-nothing carjacker, not an athlete; the last thing he wants to do is chase after you in a foot pursuit.  He’ll just laugh to himself, and try again with the next easy target.

If you are in a less than ideal neighborhood, and if you’re stopped somewhere that offers valet parking (okay, so that’s a sadly rare combination of circumstances!) consider using the valet parking service for safety.

Having a second adult traveling with you gives you extra security and makes you less tempting to a carjacker.  90% of carjackings occur when the vehicle has only one occupant.  Strangely, males are more likely to be victims than women, but perhaps both these statistics need to be adjusted for it being more likely that cars in general have only one occupant, and that single occupant vehicles are more likely to have men than women in them.

You should always know where you are going and where you are.  Avoid bad neighborhoods, and don’t get lost.  Use a GPS.  By driving through better areas, you keep your risks lower than going through high risk areas.

If you find yourself confronted by a carjacker on your way to/from your car, and he asks for your wallet, or keys, or handbag, or whatever else, don’t just hand them over.  Toss them away as best you can, then run in the opposite direction.  The chances are the bad guy is more interested in your valuables or keys than in you personally, and he’ll go after those rather than after you.

Try not to give away your cell phone if you can avoid it, though.  You’ll need it for summoning the police.  So if the guy says ‘give me your keys, wallet and phone, toss the keys and wallet and run off with your phone.


Prevention is better than cure, and being aware of your surroundings is always the best thing for you to do, at all times.

Make yourself a less tempting target, and if confronted by a carjacker, other than one pointing a gun at you (just under half of carjackings involve guns) consider some form of resistance rather than meekly complying with all the bad guy’s demands.

Never under any circumstance allow a carjacking to become a kidnapping.

Lastly, here’s a feel-good story about a citizen who acted to prevent a carjacking.  It can be done.

This was the second part of a two-part article on carjacking.  If you arrived directly here from a link or search engine, you might find it helpful to also read part 1 – The Risks of Being Carjacked.