It is a crime that seems worlds away, but it is a crime that is occurring with alarming frequency. It can happen on your way to the grocery store, or on your way home from work. No one is exempt from this crime that is sweeping the Nation and creating fear.

Are you a target for carjacking and do you know what precautions to take to lessen your chances of becoming a victim? Concerned with this safety issue, we encourage all drivers to exercise caution when traveling.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau, in its most recently released statistics, indicated that about 35,000 carjackings or other auto-related abductions occur in the United States each year. Nearly 75 percent of all carjackings involve the use of a gun or other deadly weapon.

Carjacking has become a very common crime. People tend to feel safe in their cars because it is a familiar, comfortable surrounding. It is not our intention to make people fearful of driving. However, people need to take precautions, particularly women age 35 or younger.

It is estimated that nearly half of all carjackings occur while the driver is waiting at a traffic signal or stop sign. Another common place for these incidents is parking lots or garages. It is difficult to determine how many of these crimes could have been prevented, but we have some suggestions on how drivers can reduce their chances of being carjacked.

If it can be avoided, do not travel alone when it is dark. The majority of carjackings occur between the hours of 10:00 P.M. and 2:00 A.M.

Always keep your car doors or night.

Park your car in well-lit areas that are within sight and shouting distance of others.

Always try to park near an entrance, particularly if you will be leaving it for an extended period of time.

Whenever you think you may be in a vulnerable situation, carry pepper spray in your hand.

If some vehicle "bumps" or tries to signal you that there is something wrong with your car, drive to a populated area such as a gas station before stopping. This is a common technique used by carjackers to get you to stop your car in an unsafe area.

If you know you will be traveling in unfamiliar areas, map out your route before leaving. Stay on highways instead of side streets.

Always check your car's back seat and underneath the car before entering.

If your car breaks down, wait for a police officer to help. Ask, through a tiny opening in your window, to see the officer's credential.

Never accept help from anyone in an unmarked car.

Keep an adequate amount of distance in the front and rear of your car when stopped at a traffic signal. If an emergency occurs, you may be able to maneuver your way out of a dangerous situation.

When possible, travel in the middle lane.

Once you have parked your car, keep the motor running so that you may check out the area surrounding your car as well as the route you will travel to reach your destination.

If you have a garage, use it and remember to lock your doors upon exiting even though you are at home.