What you need to know:
Car safety is just as important when you are in the car as when the car is parked. For example, if you are in slow-moving traffic, close your windows, lock your doors and keep any valuables out of sight.
Barely a week goes by without cries of unsuspecting motorists whose car parts have been vandalised in traffic jam. Sometimes, incidents happen in public parking places, regardless of whether it is a mall or guarded street you would think is safe.
For instance, on Women’s Day, KFM presenter Lynda Uwamahoro Ddane parked her car outside the perimeter wall at her workplace in Namuwongo. After approximately four hours, she returned to a car without side mirrors.
While Ddane had stayed away from her car for a few hours, sometimes it takes seconds for vandals to pluck what they need off your car, sometimes as you look on helplessly.
In December 2022, Mercy Agaba, while driving in traffic jam at Clock Tower around Usafi Market in Kampala City, lost part of her right side mirror of her Toyota Premio in similar circumstances.
“I was trying to get something from my bag in the rear seats during traffic jam. Turning back to the steering wheel, someone I thought was a pedestrian was struggling to take my side mirror. When they failed to get the whole of it, they took the outer shell. I kept hooting thinking this would scare them off but it did not help. Everything happened in less than a minute,” Agaba recalls.
Richard Ssentongo, a motorist, also lost the side mirror of his Land Rover Discovery at the Jinja Road traffic lights around Kitgum House in traffic jam the same way Agaba lost hers. Ssentongo was reading messages on his phone while waiting for the traffic to ease up when suddenly, a vandal swiftly and quickly removed the inner part of the left hand side mirror and vanished without a trace.
“By the time I thought of raising an alarm, he had already made off with my side mirror. This taught me a lesson and after replacing it, I installed two hooks on the lower part of each side mirror which has kept the vandals at bay,” Ssentongo says.
Andrew Sserwadda, a motorist, has also tested the wrath of street vandalism. Recently, he parked on Dewinton Road and entered a certain restaurant for lunch. After approximately 40 minutes, he returned to his Toyota Sienta only to find that the molding that covers the passenger door slide rail had been pulled off.
“I went to the garage to have the cover on the opposite side permanently locked. I want the stolen one replaced but I have failed to find a spare parts dealer with one,” Sserwadda says.
According to Sula Kilimani, a mechanic, popular cars, especially the Japanese brands such as Toyota Premio, Passo, Spacio, Sienta and Toyota Fielder, among others, are susceptible to vandalism. The most targeted parts include side mirrors, wheel caps, logos and door handles. On the extreme, vandals target valuable items in the car.
“Take your new car to have the side mirrors and wheel caps locked using specialised permanent hooks and nuts. For side mirrors, the hooks are fixed on the lower end. It makes tilting or shaking of the glass component difficult to remove. These parts could be cheap to replace but how long will you keep replacing them? Also, instead of rims that have wheel caps, opt for sport rims that are impossible to get off, unless one targets the whole tyre,” Kilimani advises.
Add visual deterrents
Sturdy steering wheel locks and having your car’s registration number etched onto the windows are old-school deterrents that are still worth considering in the digital age. Any opportunistic thieves may be put off by visual deterrents and could pass by a car they see as having robust security measures in place.
Parking in public spaces
Most public parking spaces are manned at the entrance. Unfortunately, the parking itself is rarely manned, with disclaimers about how management will not be responsible for any valuables stolen.
“Always park your car where it is visible. After parking, all your windows should be raised and the side mirrors folded inwards,” says Richard Kalyango, a parking controller at Garden City Shopping Mall in Kampala.
Just like in traffic jam, do not leave your property such as phones, laptops or money visible through the car window, as these attract vandals.
Abubaker Kasozi, a spare parts dealer at Kisekka Market in Kampala, advises you to have different car locks where the key that opens your car is different from one that ignites the engine. The one that opens is circular and is specific and designed for one lock, while one that starts the engine is similar to that of a padlock.
1.Do not just park in the first space you see; try to find a place that is well-lit and open to public view.
2. If you need to use a car park, try to find one that is security patrolled, covered by CCTV, or that is approved for safer parking.
3. If you are at the shops or in a busy town centre car park, you should park close to other shoppers, rather than away from other cars.
4. Thieves will be less likely to target your vehicle if they believe they might be disturbed.