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SPECIAL REPORT: Surviving a carjacking

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It’s a risk we take every single day when we get behind the wheel.

Nearly 40,000 carjackings are reported across the country each year, and in Memphis, it’s happening more and more.

But how you react could mean the difference between life and death.

Would you know what to do if it happened to you and you had to make that split-second decision?

Memphis Pastor Ricky Floyd became one of the dozens of carjacking victims in the city last year.

"I was just stopping to get some air in a tire," he said. "When I stood up, to my surprise I see someone sitting in the car."

Floyd was sent to the hospital after trying to fight for his car.

He talked to WREG about those terrifying moments in an interview in November.

"I got dragged for a while, flipped over for a while," he said.

No two scenarios are the same, but knowing what to do — and doing it quickly — greatly increase your odds of getting out alive.

“The person that’s carjacking you is unpredictable, so there’s not a correct answer," said Rob Yahn.

Yahn and Sam Pike own The Box, where they teach Krav Maga, a self-defense system based on your natural reflexes.

"Most average people, there’s a disbelief that it’s going to happen. And then when it’s happening, they go through this, ‘I can’t believe this is happening,'" Pike said. "The sooner you respond, the better chance you have to getting out of it."

Yahn and Pike also hold carjacking seminars, which begin with learning what they call basic strikes.

Once you’ve got those down, a weapon is added to the mix.

"I’m going to redirect the weapon, I’m going to control the weapon, strike the attacker, and then try to get the weapon so I have control of it," Pike said. "Then I’m going to make my distance and see what else is happening around because he’s probably not alone."

Redirection, control, strike, takeaway and get to safety.

You’ll use those same tactics during a carjacking if your only option is to fight back.

For instance, if the attacker gets into your car and tells you to drive, which experts say you should never do.

"If they’re moving you from one place to another, they don’t usually turn out very well," Yahn said.

Or if there’s a child in the car.

"That’s when you have to fight," he added. "They may be in such a hurry that they get in the car and don’t let you get your kid, even if they said they would."

In most cases, experts say you should just give the carjacker what they want.

"Get out if you can. Your car’s hopefully insured, and if it’s not, it’s just a car," Yahn said.

If you can,  speed off.

But to do that, you need to make sure you’re leaving enough room between you and the car ahead of you at intersections, especially at night and in dangerous areas.

If you do have to fight, be quick and deliberate, and remember those crucial steps.

"I need to redirect the weapon, get control of the weapon, and I don’t have a lot of ability to cause him damage so I’m going to use my vehicle as best I can by slamming him into the A-frame or using the steering wheel to break against his wrist," Pike demonstrated. "From here, I would just drive as fast as I can away."

More tips to keep in mind: When you pull up to a drive-thru or ATM, keep your car in drive so you can take off quickly if a carjacker approaches you.

And some of the biggest mistakes you can make are leaving your car running in your driveway or at the store or gas pump and not paying attention to what’s happening around you.

As convenient as it is, your cellphone can also be your worst enemy, turning you into an easy target.

Thieves are looking for people who are texting and checking Facebook, so put the phone down.

But most importantly, listen to your instincts.

You never know when they just might save your life.

Yahn and Pike say they will be holding another carjacking seminar at The Box soon.