As winter approaches, motorists are being warned against the dangers of leaving cars unattended with keys in them while the windshield defrosts.
The warning comes as data from vehicle recovery service Tracker reveals a spike in vehicle thefts during the Autumn and Winter months.
Tracker analysed data on stolen but then recovered cars between August last year and July 2017. In the last year more vehicles were stolen with keys in them during the Autumn and Winter months compared to Spring and Summer. On average nearly a third (32 per cent) were stolen with keys during the darker months, compared to 24 per cent for the rest of the year.
“This can be attributed to a number of factors. Winter nights are ideal for those willing to act under the cover of darkness, as the chances of getting caught breaking into and entering a home, or simply taking advantage of open doors and windows, are considerably reduced,” says Andy Barrs, Head of Police Liaison at Tracker.
“In addition, harsh frosty mornings present a prime opportunity for criminals, as drivers often leave running cars unattended for a few minutes whilst the windows de-ice. Indeed, it only takes a matter of seconds for the unscrupulous to take advantage of an easy target.”
Not covered by insurance
The Financial Ombudsman Service warns that many car insurance policies contain an exclusion clause voiding theft, attempted theft and malicious damage cover if keys have been left unattended inside (or on) the vehicle.
Their advice says: “Exclusion clauses are found in almost all motor insurance policies, although the precise wording and scope of the clause can vary. Insurers include these clauses because they do not intend to cover loss or damage caused by theft when the consumer deliberately or inadvertently leaves the ignition keys in or on the car.”
Victims may still be able to dispute such rulings however, depending on a number of factors including where the car was at the time of the incident, mitigating factors and whether or not the exclusion is clear within the insurance contract.
Follow this advice to minimise the risk of your car being stolen during the winter months:
- Never leave the keys in the ignition, even if you are just stopping for a brief moment.
- Never leave your car running unattended when de-icing.
- Always lock and secure your vehicle.
- Don’t leave belongings on show, lock them in the boot or take them with you.
- Do not leave technology items on display, such as satnavs, mobile telephones or DVD players. Take them with you or lock them in the boot.
- Never leave car documents or spare keys inside the car – this only makes it easier for thieves to sell it on.
- Park in busy or well-lit and attended car parks near CCTV cameras.
- If you have a garage, use it to park your car.
- At home, don’t keep keys in a place where they can be seen or easily accessed from outside.
- Consider fitting a tracking device to help police recover your car if it’s stolen.
For more advice on preventing car crime, visit the Police car crime prevention resource.