Car thieves know the best places to rip off cars from distracted, unsuspecting drivers. But many drivers make it way too easy for thieves by leaving their keys in the vehicle. As the hectic holiday season approaches, here’s a worthwhile tip: The best way to foil car theft: take your keys with you.

This no-nonsense advice comes from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), who says that in the past year, one out of every eight vehicle thefts was the result of the driver leaving the keys or key fob inside the vehicle. Another chilling statistic: A car theft occurred every 6-1/2 minutes due to keys/fob left in the vehicle.

In its latest report, the NICB notes that the 57,096 vehicles stolen in 2015 marks a 22 percent increase over the prior year. This type of car theft has increased 31 percent over the past three years.

But the actual number is likely higher, since many drivers won’t admit to leaving their car doors unlocked and/or their keys or key fobs inside the vehicle when they leave.

Keys in car-Photo courtesy NICB

Keys in car-Photo courtesy NICB

Keep Your Wits About You

Just in case the statistics seem a little high, consider the following real-life scenario thatq happened to a relative’s close friend in California. The woman was late for an appointment. She parked her vehicle and jumped out after locking it, only to realize she’d left not only her car keys in the vehicle. She also left her car running.

Besides being extremely embarrassed and panicked, she was also very lucky. The friend whom she was meeting called a locksmith service and waited by her car until help arrived. This thwarted any would-be thieves.

It could just as easily have proven disastrous. While the woman searched for someone to help or went inside a store or another establishment to call (she had also left her cell phone in the vehicle), a thief could have simply used a Slim Jim or a coat hanger to get into the vehicle and drive off.

Top 5 States for Car Theft with Keys Left Inside

The most populous state in the country, California, is the number one state for car theft with keys left inside, with a total of 22,580 thefts.

Texas is second with 11,003 thefts, with Florida, Ohio and Nevada ranked third, fourth and fifth with 9,952 thefts, 8,623 thefts, and 8,073 thefts, respectively.

The top five areas where such thefts occurred were:

  • Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, Nevada – 7,815 thefts
  • Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, Michigan – 4,380 thefts
  • Atlanta-Roswell-Sandy Springs, Georgia – 4,118 thefts
  • Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, Florida – 3,847 thefts
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-Camden, New Jersey-Wilmington, Maryland – 3,365 thefts

Curiously, only one state had no reports of vehicle theft due to keys left in the vehicle: Hawaii.

Days when most such vehicle thefts occurred were on or just after the weekend: Saturday (22,081 thefts), Monday (21,851 thefts) and Friday (21,651 thefts).

More Tips to Keep Car Thieves at Bay

In addition to locking your car and taking your keys with you when you depart the vehicle, the NICB has the following tips to help prevent your car from being stolen:

  • Do not leave the garage door opener in the vehicle.
  • Take a picture of your registration on your cell phone and do not leave the registration or other papers with personal information in the vehicle.
  • Never leave a car unlocked or running to warm it up or while stopping for a quick cup of coffee. It only takes a moment for the opportunistic thief to jump inside and drive off.


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