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Driving Tips

Travellers' Safety Tips

Don't become a victim of crime

In an effort to reduce your risk of being a victim of crime, here are some hints and tips you can use. These tips are not designed to make you paranoid, rather to empower you and give you information you can use every day.

Criminals are observant.

You can never be sure when you are being watched. Even when loading your luggage at the airport. This information can be forwarded to another criminal at your presumed destination. When you arrive at a shopping centre or other public place, do not put valuables in your boot when in the parking area. You are overtly advertising to any observer that you have something of value to steal.

What can you do to avoid this?

Break the routine. Avoid travelling directly from the airport to a shopping centre. Instead, deposit your luggage and valuables such as laptop computers at your hotel or guesthouse before going shopping. This may seem inconvenient, but not as inconvenient as having to replace your valuable items, passports, etc.

When driving or even when parked at a lot, do not keep valuables such as cellphones or handbags in view i.e. on the seat next to you as this presents an easy target for a "smash and grab" type robbery. Again, if you take the time to safely store items out of sight or in the boot, you are reducing the opportunity for a criminal to strike.

Please do not take for granted the presence of car guards or the fact that you may have parked in a secure, covered parking area. Take your normal, reasonable precautions such as carrying all valuable items with you. Leave nothing to steal.

Do not be complacent. A criminal does not know the meaning of, "I was just going in for two minutes..." It takes a skilled criminal half that time to rid you of your property.

Out driving:

Familiarise yourself with the routes you need to follow to your destination if the roads or areas are unfamiliar to you. Ask a reliable local for information as to which roads or areas to avoid, or what special precautions you can take if those areas are unavoidable. Note that GPS-type aids are indiscriminate to "safe" and "unsafe" routes in and around an unfamiliar area. As a back up, get accurate directions from a reliable person to assist you in getting to your destination safely.

Please make sure you get the telephone number of your local South African Police Service (SAPS) station. They will be able to advise you on information such as routes and areas to steer clear of and can assist you in an emergency. (Or phone the SAPS emergency line 10111)

Do not stop on freeways to take a cellphone call. These are prime areas for criminals to strike. Rather take the next exit and stop at a safe place such as a petrol station to make the call.

Breakdowns:

As a preventative measure, before a journey, always make sure the vehicle you are using is mechanically sound and has plenty of fuel. This will ensure that your chances of breaking down will be drastically limited – especially important if you are travelling in an unfamiliar area.

Separate your cash from other items such as your ID book, passport, driver's licence and bank cards. If you become the unfortunate victim of a robbery, a criminal will more than likely demand your wallet, bag and/or cash. If they are separate, the items that are valuable to you can be retained. Keep a cheap back up cellphone hidden somewhere. (Men, hide it in your sock, ladies in your underwear.) If your phone is stolen, you can still call for help with the back-up phone. Another idea is to hide your main cellphone and allow the cheap "decoy" to be stolen.

Keep moving - especially if you are alone and have a puncture while driving and do not feel that the area is safe. Reduce your speed and pull into the left lane. Continue driving very slowly until you reach a safe place such as a petrol station. A damaged tire and wheel is far easier to replace than all your valuables.

General:

When walking in shopping centres and other public places, stay alert and be aware of what is going on around you. Hold handbags securely against your body. Use shop windows as mirrors to see if anyone is following you or watching you. If you need assistance or feel unsafe, go into any shop and ask for the Centre Security to escort you back to your vehicle.

Try as far as possible not to carry a lot of cash. Most shops and restaurants are equipped to pay with debit or credit cards. If you have to carry cash, again separate it into smaller bundles and do not display large amounts or denominations.

Try not going into public toilets alone. If this is unavoidable, leave your valuables with a partner or friend.

Express a bold body language. Nothing says "victim" like a nervous person clutching their belongings.

If you have to use a bank or cash exchange bureau, secure the money in a bag or wallet before leaving the store. Try and do it out of sight of anyone outside. When walking out, look at people around you. Did anyone catch your eye or did you see anyone loitering around? Stay alert. If you do not feel safe, again ask for a Security Official to escort you to your vehicle.

Do not accept help from anyone at an Automatic Teller Machine (ATM). There are guards stationed near them in all major shopping centres. Alert them if you feel unsafe or if someone is bothering you.

Try not to stray off the beaten path. Go to well known shopping centres and venues. You are less likely to get lost or run into any type of trouble.

Keep reliable people informed as to your cellphone number, where you are and what time you are expected back. If there is an emergency, someone will know where to find you.

Once more: these tips are not to make you afraid. By following each one, you are drastically reducing the percentage chance of becoming a victim of crime.

Compiled by
Cst S.D. Clark
SAPS Westville
Communications
Social Crime Prevention