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Why you should drive with your window slightly open

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According to police and media reports smash-and-grab incidents are on the rise with the attackers becoming increasingly brazen. A recent incident at an intersection in Paulshof, Johannesburg, also shows that these incidents are moving from the city into the suburbs.

ADT general manager for the inland region, Theunis Kotze, says that while most people close their windows when they’re at a traffic light,  leaving them open only a slight 3cm can make them more flexible and more impervious to shattering. He says this allows the window to absorb most of the impact by being less rigid while not leaving enough room for the criminal to stick his hand through.

“Remember, smash-and-grabbers rely on the element of surprise and the violent smashing of the window at the passenger side places the motorist in a few moments of silent paralysis – just enough to get hold of the valuables and flee the scene,” he says. “It is therefore so important not to leave any valuables in the front seat with you, or in the back. Handbags, cellphones, etc, must be kept in the boot or at the very least out of sight under the seat.”

Arrive Alive says thieves are usually after valuables which they can easily identify from outside the vehicle and sell as easily once stolen. Items targeted include:

  • Purses, handbags and wallets
  • Laptop bags, briefcases and backpacks
  • Shopping bags
  • Cellphones, MP3 players and tablets
  • Loose change and CDs
  • Keys

ADT says motorists should remain alert when approaching an intersection or stopping their vehicle, no matter what time of day. “It’s also wise to leave a gap or stopping distance between you and the car in front of you to give you room to get out, should anything happen,” says Kotze. “If it’s late at night, slow down long enough in advance so that the light changes green by the time you get to it.”

Most safety organisations suggest motorists fit their windows with a polycarb film. These can be tinted so that no one can see into the car, while also preventing the windows from shattering.

Other useful tips from Arrive Alive:

  • Lock all your doors and close the windows when driving. Never open vehicle windows or doors for strangers.
  • Avoid opening your windows or getting involved in discussions with street vendors or anyone handing out flyers.
  • Be constantly on the lookout for suspicious-looking characters.
  • Always be conscious of your surroundings and remain alert when coming to an intersection or stopping your vehicle.
  • Be wary of people standing at intersections.
  • If you encounter obstacles such as rocks or tyres do not get out of your vehicle to remove them; immediately reverse and drive off in the opposite direction.
  • Leave a gap between you and the car in front of you to give you room to escape if you need to.

Kotze says in the unfortunate event that a motorist is involved in an incident they must remember not to become aggressive or struggle for their possessions. “Letting the criminal take your handbag or cellphone could save your life,” he says. “What’s important is that you report the incident to the police as soon as possible. The SAPS rely on intelligence to manage hotspots and trends.”


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