Carjackings On The Rise

Yesterday, a local news report was published indicating that there had been 450 carjackings in Essex County, NJ – setting an all-time record for this part of New Jersey. The article offered these additional insights:

So far in 2013, there have been 450 carjackings in Essex County, up from 422 in 2012, and 410 in 2011. In 2009, there were just 200. Law enforcement experts said that those numbers should scare you.

“They said they make more money stealing one car than they do slinging drugs on the street corner and their risk of getting killed by the competition is much lower,” former Morris County detective Dan Coleman explained.

A demand for nice cars has made the luxury SUVs popular with thieves, and new technology like push-button starters make hot wiring the new models virtually impossible, so criminals need the car and the key.

Ten percent of the stolen cars wind up in containers at nearby ports, Sloan reported. “There are very sophisticated rings stealing luxury cars and shipping them overseas. In a post-9/11 world we’re watching what’s coming into the port. What’s going out isn’t watched as closely,” Coleman said. Many of those cars are then sent to Africa where there is a high demand for luxury vehicles, Sloan reported. 

Surveillance footage has even shown thieves stealing cars at gas stations, following drivers home, or initiating bogus accidents by bumping cars from behind.

Overview

Carjacking is the theft of an auto while it’s occupied by its lawful operator. Carjackings are often characterized with serious threats of violence or death by gunfire or stabbing. Carjacking is on the increase throughout the world as thieves can easily make their getaway in the seized vehicle. In rare cases, the lawful operator is kidnapped as a passenger under duress, or made to drive the vehicle on behalf of his/her abductor.

In 1992, Congress passed the Federal Anti-Car Theft Act (FACTA) making it a federal crime to use a firearm to steal “through force or intimidation” a motor vehicle. Unfortunately, the law was seldom enforced since most cases are held at local or state level courts.

Commercial fleet operators whose managers use high value, target vehicles (SUVs, etc.) would be wise to educate these operators about the nature of these crimes, and steps to consider if attacked.  Trucks carrying high value goods may also be hi-jacked for their commodities.

According to the Department of Justice there are some general characteristics of carjacking events:

  • Carjacking victimization rates were highest in urban areas, followed by suburban and rural areas. Ninety three percent of carjackings occurred in cities or suburbs.
  • A weapon was used in 74% of carjacking victimizations. Firearms were used in 45% of carjackings, knives in 11%, and other weapons in 18%.
  • The victim resisted the offender in two-thirds of carjackings. Twenty-four percent of victims used confrontational resistance (threatening or attacking the offender or chasing or trying to capture the offender). About a third of victims used nonconfrontational methods, such as running away, calling for help, or trying to get the attention of others.
  • About 32% of victims of completed carjackings and about 17% of victims of attempted carjackings were injured. Serious injuries, such as gunshot or knife wounds, broken bones, or internal injuries occurred in about 9%. More minor injuries, such as bruises and chipped teeth, occurred in about 15%.
  • 68% of carjacking incidents occurred at night (6 p.m. – 6 a.m.). 
  • 44% of carjacking incidents occurred in an open area, such as on the street (other than immediately adjacent to the victim’s own home or that of a friend or neighbor) or near public transportation (such as a bus, subway, or train station or an airport), and 24% occurred in parking lots or garages or near commercial places such as stores, gas stations, office buildings, restaurants/bars, or other commercial facilities.
  • About 63% of carjacking incidents occurred within 5 miles of the victim’s home, including the 17% that occurred at or near the home. Four percent occurred more than 50 miles from the victim’s home.
  • 77% of carjackings — 98% of the completed crimes and 58% of the attempts — were reported to the police.
  • Partial or complete recovery of property occurred in 78% of completed carjacking incidents. A quarter of carjackings involved total recovery of all property.

The US Department of State offers tips on avoiding carjacking incidents:

  • Stay alert at all times and be aware of your environment. The most likely places for a carjacking are:
    • High crime areas
    • Lesser traveled roads (rural areas)
    • Intersections where you must stop
    • Isolated areas in parking lots
    • Residential driveways and gates
    • Traffic jams or congested areas

In traffic, look around for possible avenues of escape. Keep some distance between you and the vehicle in front so you can maneuver easily if necessary–about one-half of your vehicle’s length. (You should always be able to see the rear tires of the vehicle in front of you.)

When stopped, use your rear and side view mirrors to stay aware of your surroundings. Also keep your doors locked and windows up. This increases your safety and makes it more difficult for an attacker to surprise you.

Accidents are one ruse used by attackers to control a victim. Following are common attack plans:

    1. The BumpThe attacker bumps the victim’s vehicle from behind. The victim gets out to assess the damage and exchange information. The victim’s vehicle is taken.
    2. Good SamaritanThe attacker(s) stage what appears to be an accident. They may simulate an injury. The victim stops to assist, and the vehicle is taken.
    3. The RuseThe vehicle behind the victim flashes its lights or the driver waves to get the victim’s attention. The attacker tries to indicate that there is a problem with the victim’s car. The victim pulls over and the vehicle is taken.
    4. The TrapCarjackers use surveillance to follow the victim home. When the victim pulls into his or her driveway waiting for the gate to open, the attacker pulls up behind and blocks the victim’s car.

If you are bumped from behind or if someone tries to alert you to a problem with your vehicle, pull over only when you reach a safe public place.

DURING A CARJACKING

In most carjacking situations, the attackers are interested only in the vehicle. Try to stay calm. Do not stare at the attacker as this may seem aggressive and cause them to harm you.

There are two options during an attack–nonresistive, nonconfrontational behavior and resistive or confrontational behavior. Your reaction should be based on certain factors:

    • Type of attack
    • Environment (isolated or public)
    • Mental state of attacker (reasonable or nervous)
    • Number of attackers
    • Weapons
    • Whether children are present

In the nonconfrontational situation, you would:

    • give up the vehicle freely.
    • listen carefully to all directions.
    • make no quick or sudden movements that the attacker could construe as a counter attack.
    • always keeps your hands in plain view. Tell the attacker of every move in advance.
    • make the attacker aware if children are present. The attacker may be focused only on the driver and not know children are in the car.

In a resistive or confrontational response, you would make a decision to escape or attack the carjacker. Before doing so, consider:

    • the mental state of the attacker.
    • possible avenues of escape.
    • the number of attackers; there is usually more than one.
    • the use of weapons. (Weapons are used in the majority of carjacking situations.)

In most instances, it is probably safest to give up your vehicle.

AFTER THE ATTACK

Safety  —  Always carry a cell phone or radio on your person.

If you are in a populated area, immediately go to a safe place. After an attack or an attempted attack, you might not be focused on your safety. Get to a safe place before contacting someone to report the incident.

Reporting the Crime — Describe the event. What time of day did it occur? Where did it happen? How did it happen? Who was involved?  Describe the attacker(s). Without staring, try to note height, weight, scars or other marks, hair and eye color, the presence of facial hair, build (slender, large), and complexion (dark, fair). Describe the attacker’s vehicle. If possible get the vehicle license number, color, make, model, and year, as well as any marks (scratches, dents, damage) and personal decorations (stickers, colored wheels). The golden rule for descriptions is to give only that information you absolutely remember. If you are not sure, don’t guess!

 RELATED INFORMATION SOURCES:

Are we heading the right direction in auto-tech?

Tesla Motors has been making news by featuring a 17-inch touch screen monitor in the center console of their latest model cars.  This sort of driver interface seems counter-intuitive from a safety perspective; however, many in the consumer electronics world and in the car and light duty truck world are saying that customers want what they want and will go to any manufacturer that provides it.

Can we integrate technology and keep drivers focused on the road?

Check out these videos….

Tesla Model S – 17-inch touch screen replacing “buttons and switches”

http://www.bloomberg.com/video/auto-tech-safety-feature-or-driver-distraction-hGV0D1S~RRmph6X6s9OV8w.html

Diversion Programs and Violation Masking

If you get pulled over for speeding in Minnesota, it’s increasingly likely the police officer will give you a choice: Pay the ticket, or take a safe driving class.

The classes usually cost less than the ticket, and the violation doesn’t go on your driving record.

More cities and counties are offering “diversion programs” because they keep cases from entering the court system. One state auditor’s report, though, says there’s a problem with these programs: They’re illegal.

http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2013/11/14/news/driver-safety-class

PoliceIf you get pulled over for speeding in Minnesota, it’s increasingly likely the police officer will give you a choice: Pay the ticket, or take a safe driving class.

This legal tactic, known as “diversion” enables offenders to avoid prosecution (and resulting criminal record) in exchange for alternative outcomes like:

  • Education aimed at preventing future offenses by the offender (i.e. Traffic School in lieu of Moving Violations)
  • Completion of community service hours
  • Avoiding situations for a specified period in the future that may lead to committing another such offense

According to a wikipedia article on diversion programs:

Some jurisdictions in the United States, such as those in California, may impose the completion of DUI programs as punishment for drunk driving in the United States. One such program is the Victim Impact Panel (VIP). administered by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) since 1982. MADD typically charges a $25 “donation” (which is defined as voluntary), even for court-mandated attendance; MADD reported $2,657,293 one year for such donations on its nonprofit tax exempt returns.[11]

EdiscoverySome safety professionals do not like diversion programs since they tend to “mask” behaviors or habits that might otherwise be indicators of a deeper risk-taking mentality.  For example, suppose a chronic speeder relies on diversion programs to mask their speeding problem — ultimately, they may become involved in a fatal crash since their MVR (report of prior driving violations) didn’t signal the need for a stronger safety response.  Various reports have signaled that driver education programs often fail to reduce crash rates (click here) since:

  • Driver education does teach safety skills but students are not specially motivated to actually use them
  • Driver education could foster overconfidence
  • Driver education often fails to adequately address lifestyle issues
  • Driver education often fails to tailor content to student-specific needs

Further complicating matters is the fact that diversion programs are run locally — there’s no central reporting on who has participated and what the underlying cause may have been.  For corporate safety managers, that means giant holes in MVR reporting where all sorts of violations may have led to traffic stops, but there are no records to indicate an underlying issue with risk taking.

“We don’t want somebody with bad driving behaviors to be able to participate in diversion programs around the state and nobody knows how many they’ve participated in,” said [Minnesota] State Auditor Rebecca Otto. “If someone gets to participate in diversion in one county that’s doing this program, and then the next day they’re in a different city that has this program, their driving records are scattered all over.”

The view’s different, though, in sheriff’s offices and police departments across the state using diversion programs.

In Buffalo, Minn., the city started its Drive Smart program. Only people cited for minor moving violations — such as going 15 miles or less over the speed limit, running a red light, failing to yield – are eligible.  The number of programs like Drive Smart has nearly tripled over the last six years. More than 35 of them operate in cities and counties around the state.  [Unfortunately,]…There’s a range of fees. There’s a range of classes you get to take if you’re allowed to participate. One of them is an eight-minute online video that you watch.”

Motivating local departments and municipalities is the fact that generally a third of violation fines go to the state treasury, but diversion course fees largely stay local (a bigger cut of the pie stays at home).

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What do you think?  Should drivers be able to take an eight-minute online class and have a violation tossed as though it never happened?  In the end, would more drivers have more crashes if they have an underlying problem with risk taking while behind the wheel?  Is this all really about money in a tough economy?

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Benchmarking Violation Data

Atri 2011 coverIn 2005 and 2011, ATRI provided a ground-breaking study of the connection between violations and increased crash risk (Click Here).

Having studied more than a half-million driver records, the analysis was incontrovertible and carries powerful implications for driver safety supervisors, managers and directors.

In short, when a driver receives a violation, the likelihood of a crash also goes up by a specific factor.  

We’ve also seen a connection between tighter MVR profiles and decreased crash numbers:

“As recently reported at a fleet safety conference, two similar fleets had chosen to use the same standard for MVR review — exclude violations greater than 36 months old and allow for a combination of three violations and one preventable crash before suspending driving privileges.  One of these fleets tightened their standard to two violations and one crash during the most recent 24 months and saw a five point reduction in collisions (from 22% of their fleet vehicles involved in a crash per year to 17% of their vehicles involved in a crash) and $2 million in savings.”  (click here for full coverage)

Now our question to progressive fleet teams is this — are you benchmarking your driver profile results against national trends in violations to assess relative crash risk?

Violatios Table

Consider this table (above) and how your individual drivers stack up against national averages.  IF your drivers have a greater share of violations than the average, what would you do to step up your performance monitoring or refresher coaching?

  • Could this data be used against you in a Negligent Supervision lawsuit?
  • Is your defense going to be proactive and demonstrate that you actively monitor this data and assign coaching, education, monitoring resources or to claim “we didn’t know“? (not knowing is never a realistic defense)

If you’re using an automated MVR solution to pull in MVR data and profile it, you should be considering:

  1. whether the ACD code tables are up to date (many providers haven’t updated their code lists in years and can’t even post a texting violation properly!)
  2. whether your data can be exported to spreadsheet for analysis against national records like the table presented above, or whether your provider can automatically provide a comparison on a “driver-by-driver basis” against such public data
  3. whether your MVR profiling efforts should include other proactive, leading indicators of performance such as GPS alerts, how’s my driving alerts, or even camera in cabin video analysis.
  4. how you compare actual MVR results to your own loss data to validate the ATRI study and take action on “at-risk” drivers to reduce collisions
  5. how to link your MVR (ACD Codes) to refresher training modules to document immediate action taken on all drivers (who show a change in results) each time their MVR is obtained.

Of course, it may be easier to simply use our plug-n-play E-DriverFile system, Safety Hotline Program and “SafetyZone” LMS to handle these issues for you.  We work with the nation’s largest fleets (of CMVs and non-regulated vehicles, too!) to help manage risk, safety and results.  We also maintain an “in-network” system of relationships with more than 75 insurance providers who use our services with their select, targeted clients.

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