We South Africans are trained like prize poodles. Even if you spend your days in pink neon spandex and sequins touring with the Boswell Wilkie Circus, there are a number of protocols most of us observe on a daily methodical basis.
We South Africans are trained like prize poodles. Even if you spend your days in pink neon spandex and sequins touring with the Boswell Wilkie Circus, there are a number of protocols most of us observe on a daily methodical basis. Cell phone and wallet are kept as close to your body as possible; a hand always covers the ATM keypad when entering a pin number; the home alarm system is activated before bed time with toilet route cordoned off for midnight bladder relief; and many more.
When it comes to cars, our routines fill another whole rule book of its own. Naturally doors remain locked at all times and the unwritten permissibility of jumping dodgy stop streets at 2am is a widely used practice, especially near tall grass.
The problem arises when you have to leave your car unsupervised. There's nothing much to be done except to give a silent prayer and a curt nod to the 'security guard' who seems to have procured his high-visibility vest from the local landfill. This is where Global Positioning Systems (GPS) come in to play: the eye in the sky, the omniscient over-looker, the chop-shop chopper… naturally we're talking about vehicle tracking systems.
So how does it work? Basically, it starts with a receiver being fitted to your car. “We hide the tracker very well and disguise it so it looks factory fitted. It's also hidden in a different place in every car so the crooks never know where to look for it,” explains Rayno Smith, an auto electrical engineer for Altech Netstar.
A GPS tracking system then registers your vehicle with a satellite, and 'Hey presto!' your car is having conversations with a floating tin can which is updating your vehicle's position as often as every minute, displayed on a map back at base camp via the Internet. “At the Altech Netstar office I work at in PE, we install tracking devices into about 10 cars a day,” said Smith.
The system works well. So well, in fact, that having a tracking system installed can have a positive effect on you car insurance premium as the likelihood of your car being recovered is much higher. However not all products are favoured by insurers, especially the cheaper options. Whereas GPS can pinpoint your exact location on a map, the radio frequency tracking is less specific.
This involves you informing the vehicle trackers when your car has been stolen and them picking up the radio signal emitted from your car and zoning in by simply following the signal. Radio frequency tracking is found in products such as Altech Netstar Sleuth and Tracker Retrieve.
So check with your car insurer first to confirm which trackers will grant you the benefits of reduced car insurance premiums. Whilst we're in the small print grey area of insurance, it's also important to remember that the responsibility of checking that your tracker is working lies solely with you, unless stated otherwise. If you neglect to take the free tests offered by your tracking company and then find your tracking device isn't responsive when your car gets stolen, the insurance company will wash their hands of the pickle you'll find yourself in.
The down side comes with living in Grahamstown, where we constantly have to deal with the frustration of being abandoned by various companies, such as the absence of BMW, Ford and Audi dealerships and even an AA (Automobile Association) office, which doesn't bode well for there being any real support for those wanting to board the tracker train.
Altech Netstar's method is to wait until they have enough work to keep them occupied for the day before they will send a mechanic out from Port Elizabeth. So response time vary.
Apart from this, though, at least by having a tracker installed you'll have a plan B to the security guard that also appears to use his t-shirt as a cloth to wash your car. You can never be too careful… and on that note if you are planning to jump the stop street at 2am, please don't tell everyone that I told you to do it.