By on November 2, 2016

By James086 (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

In terms of the most basic adult behaviors, not leaving your keys in the car falls right behind feeding yourself without help and going to the bathroom like a big boy. It’s an uncomplicated concept that can be easily adhered to by anyone who has access to hands.

Despite this, one out of every eight vehicles stolen in the U.S. had the keys left inside by a person that society somehow deemed fit to operate a motor vehicle. Common sense is on a steady decline — and it’s a boon for thieves.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau reported today that, last year, a vehicle was reported stolen once every 45 seconds in the United States. And every six-and-a-half minutes a stolen vehicle’s owner left their keys or fob inside.

That’s a 31-percent increase over the past three years, though the NICB suggests this figure is artificially low because many claimants are too embarrassed to admit they exist in a mental vacuum so perfect they cannot even remember to bring their car keys with them.

Out of the 147,434 people who fell victim to giving criminals complete unadulterated access to their vehicles between 2013 and 2015, California was the big winner with 22,580. However, the NICB says the top core-based statistical areas were actually in and around Las Vegas, Detroit, and Atlanta.

While keyless entry seems like a likely culprit for the uptick in forgetfulness, the NICB’s own statistics show that many of the stolen vehicles pre-date routine implementation of modern remote systems. It really does seem like people are just becoming less clever or more lazy. And the NICB tends to agree, as its own website urges drivers to never leave a car unlocked and running while “stopping for a quick cup of coffee.”

As current anti-theft technology still revolves on a thief not having access to your keys, there isn’t much you can do to avoid this new scourge of car crime if you’ve decided you absolutely must leave keys in the vehicle.

“Anti-theft technology has had a tremendous impact on reducing thefts over the past 25 years, but if you don’t lock it up, it’s not going to help,” said NICB President and CEO Joe Wehrle in a statement.

“Complacency can lead to a huge financial loss and inconvenience for the vehicle owner. Leaving a vehicle unlocked or with the key or fob inside gives a thief the opportunity to take not only the car, but also any possessions inside. It can also provide access to your personal information if the registration is left in the glove compartment,” Wehrle continued.

“We have reports from our law enforcement partners that car thieves have stolen the car, driven it to the residence and burglarized the home before the owner even knew the vehicle was missing.”

While most insurance providers are likely to cover even the most stupidity sponsored acts of theft, you can expect a lengthy investigation and a lot of extra questions about why you left your vehicle unsecured. Don’t worry, the questions won’t be about if you’re some kind of buck-toothed moron. They’ll likely just be trying to establish whether or not you are trying to commit fraud.

[Image: James086/WikimediaCommons (CC BY-SA 4.0)]

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73 Comments on “More and More Americans Are Abandoning Reason and Handing Their Car to Thieves...”


  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I bet you all these idiots, young or old, keep their PHONES on them 24/7 though.

    • 0 avatar
      LeMansteve

      Yeah, maybe their phones are worth more than their car!

    • 0 avatar
      kuman

      hmm, lets make the phone as the key of the car.

      no phone, no car… the car will lock down if phone is not nearby.

      sensors can detect when the last passenger have exited the car and the phone is not within a few meter away from the car, the transmission will move to park, engine will shut off, windows will shut and car will be in lock down. until the phone returns and the owner authenticates themself through phone’s biometric or pin.

      in case of lending your car away, the owner can pass permission for set amount of time ( hours or day ) to another phone.

  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    It’s almost as if people actively want their cars to get stolen, for one reason or another.

    I used to know someone who left her POS car unlocked because she wished someone would steal it.

    • 0 avatar
      zoomzoomfan

      This.

      A girl at my work drives a beat up Pontiac G5 and she leaves the keys in it and the windows down every single day that it’s not raining. So far, no one has taken the bait, if that’s what it’s intended to be.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    While watching reality shows like Bait Car I always wondered why the thieves weren’t suspicious of a car with the keys in it. Like, who would do that? Thanks, you cleared that up for me.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I’ll bet the number of RHD Mitsubishis in the US with keys left in them is very, very low.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    If you leave your car running while you pop-in to buy a Big Gulp, chances are your car isn’t worth more than the drink.

    The worse that will happen is that someone will take it for a joy ride. The best that can happen is that they will write it off.

    Most people aren’t sad when their car is stolen, but they are sad when it’s returned.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @heavy handle – agree 100% there. No one wants a joy-rided vehicle returned. A former co-worker once had her vehicle stolen. It was found completely intact but with an empty fuel tank and some heavy tire wear. A month later the transmission failed and the insurance company refused to cover it. They claimed normal wear and tear. BTW, it wasn’t even a FCA product.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Given Detroit’s reputation as one of the car theft/chop shop capitols of the world, you’d be an idiot to leave your keys behind.

    • 0 avatar
      Adam Tonge

      Ain’t need a key to start a RAM. Butter knife will do.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Yes I still have a chip on my shoulder about the 1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme that was stolen while I was living in Southfield. (Of course I know it was comically easy for the thieves to crack into those old GM steering columns, connect two wires and drive away.)

        • 0 avatar
          ToddAtlasF1

          I’m not sure why they’d bother cracking the column. Some of my friends’ GM cars of the ’70s and ’80s had interchangeable keys. After 60K miles or so, you could use any GM key in their ignitions. Toyotas were the same way.

          • 0 avatar
            Adam Tonge

            I could start my 1998 Dodge Ram without a key. All you had to do was turn the switch as it stuck out from the steering column. Would start right up.

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            And Hondas.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            That’s why they [GM] came up with PassKey!

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            My 1990 F250 keys worked on my dad’s 1977 F250. A buddy had a 80’d era Ford and his keys worked on ours. All had the exact same key cut pattern.

          • 0 avatar
            86er

            Wow; I thought that was only ag. equipment.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            @Lou, back when Fords had two keys I had a pair of cars that shared the same door key, but had different ignition keys. I found that out when I grabbed the wrong set of keys and was able to unlock the car the the ignition wouldn’t turn. After a few seconds I looked at things a little closer and realized that I had the wrong keys.

            Nowadays my Daughter’s my sort of Nephew and my car all share the same key because they all came from the same gov’t agency chose the fleet key option and Ford only has 8 options.

            I should check the current fleet keys a little closer to see if one of the functions overlaps. Although they only have one key the door and ignition are different. One uses the front of the key and the other the back. There is one cut in common between the two. So if you go to the Ford dealer for a new ign switch they will match up the shared cut with your existing key and then finish cutting the keys that came with the cylinder against your existing key.

          • 0 avatar
            MRF 95 T-Bird

            Back in the mid-70’s I owned a 66 Pontiac Tempest coupe. The ignition key was worn enough to fit in my friends 65 Corvair Monza ignition though not the door.

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            Had a 1984 Sunbird with an ignition key that wore enough that I could remove it after startup. Handy for defrosting in winter.

  • avatar
    xflowgolf

    I realize the article specifically mentions keyless entry, but I feel like the uptick in the use of push to start systems with proximity keys has to contribute.

    I have had to retrain myself after buying a car with this type of system, as it is still habit to grab my key by hand when walking to the car, but then push the button to start it and toss the key into the center cubby, as it’s more convenient to do that then force it back into a pocket after being seated.

    When exiting the vehicle, pushing the “off” button has nothing to do with the key, and it’s easy to be preoccupied and disregard that you left the key in the car. When you physically had to turn the key off to shut off a car you already had the key in your hand to exit and it was a part of the fairly thoughtless routine of exiting the vehicle.

    It’s just a pattern of learned behaviors, and it’s easy to leave the key behind when it’s not part of the procedure of shutting the car off.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      I completely don’t understand this. The whole point of a prox key is that it goes in your pocket in the morning and doesn’t come out until the evening. Why would you take it out?

      • 0 avatar
        wtaf

        For me, I don’t like driving with stuff in my pockets.

        Wife’s car has a prox key. I don’t want the massive fob on my key ring.
        So when I need a fob to her car it is loose. I’ve left it in the car countless times.

        I often wonder if prox keys where designed specifically with women in mind. Toss it in your black hole of a purse and never look for it again.

        • 0 avatar
          PeriSoft

          I don’t have my fob on a key ring. Partly that’s because I don’t have a key ring; we don’t need to lock our house so I don’t carry any keys with me. But even if I did carry other keys, I imagine I’d throw the fob in my pocket separately and be done with it.

          Then again, my Sonata’s fob is barely any bigger than my thumb. It’s hard to tell it’s even in my pocket.

          Moral of the story: The problem isn’t prox keys; it’s big f*ck-off key fobs!

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          What kind of car do you have? Some brands have slots in which you can stick the proximity key. Those are primarily designed to read the key via direct contact if the battery in the key goes dead and the car can’t sense it wirelessly. However, you could stick the key in the slot. Then, the car would warn you that you’ve left the key inside if you shut it off and open the door, just like it would with a real key and ignition slot.

    • 0 avatar
      SC5door

      That doesn’t explain on locking the vehicle. Leaving the fob in the car shouldn’t allow you to lock the car. If people are leaving the cars unlocked then they’re inviting thieves to seal other stuff from the car.

      I’ve learned to exit the vehicle and either press the lock button on the fob, or on the door handle itself as each requires the fob to be located on me.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        One notable exception to this is FoMoCo vehicles. My best friend has a 2013 Fusion Energi. Most Fords still have the numerical keypad on the outside of the vehicle, although it is often a touch-sensitive area hidden inside the B-pillar that lights up when activated. Anyway, my friend is able to leave his key in the car and then lock it with the keypad when he goes to the gym, so he doesn’t have to keep the key in his pocket while he’s working out. I think that’s risky…but you can do it.

        Also, my car, a 2015 Golf SportWagen, will let you lock the doors with the key inside if you use the Car Net telematics app (which is like OnStar for Volkswagens).

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          And on the older Fords with a non proximity key if you leave the key in the ignition and try to lock the doors via one of the inside buttons or the remote they will lock and then immediately unlock. However if you have the keyless entry you can use the keypad to lock it and then of course unlock it.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          @Kyree S. Williams – my F150 is like that. You can leave the vehicle running with the keys in it and lock the door with the key pad. I like that feature in the morning when it is -25C out and I don’t want to sit in the truck to let it warm up a bit.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      For whatever reason, I forgot to grab my key ring when leaving home quite a bit after getting the Accord with keyless ignition! (Fortunately, the parents happen to live a few blocks away!) Finally got smart and hid a house key where it couldn’t be found without causing a commotion!

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    Our local police department put out a warning telling residents to a) lock their cars and b) to not keep their keys inside.

    The reason for this warning? Two cars were stolen within the span of three days because the owners left the keys inside. *eye roll*

    I have a co-worker who drives a 300k+ mile Toyota truck and a 200k mile Subaru. His car keys are just lying on the driver’s side floor.

  • avatar
    jmo

    “It really does seem like people are just becoming less clever or more lazy.”

    Or, you know, the fact that car theft has fallen by 77% has something do with it? It’s now so rare people don’t feel the need to take their keys with them.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “one out of every eight vehicles stolen in the U.S. had the keys left inside”

    In other words, 7 of 8 stolen cars did NOT have the keys in them. I’d suggest it’s more relevant to consider what you’re driving instead:

    https://www.nicb.org/theft_and_fraud_awareness/top-vehicles-stolen-by-state

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      That list of top-10 most stolen is more-or-less the same as overall sales: Big 3 pickups, Camry/Accord/Civic/Corolla/Caravan/Altima/Impala.

      The biggest surprise is that there aren’t any crossovers on the list. maybe they haven’t made it to the point where people leave their keys on the seat. They will.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        If you check out the individual states you’ll see that it is cars for the 90’s, before many CUVs even existed and before most cars had transponder systems. It doesn’t really follow the overall sales very closely. For example almost 4 times as many Accords are stolen as Camrys while the Camry has regularly outsold the Accord even if only slightly. Ditto for the Civic numbers, out of proportion to their sales vs similar cars.

        The reason is two-fold, #1 Hondas of that era are easy to steal and demand for their parts is high so they bring big bucks.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        Big pickups have been a traditional “easy steal” because they were one of the last products to go to chip keys based on the excuse that fleets didn’t want the added expense of a chip key.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          But even after retail sales on non transponder vehicles ceased they did have the option to delete it on vehicles traditionally strong with fleets. Civilian Crown Vics got transponder keys in the late 90’s but the last of the Police cars could still be had with the old school non transponder key and ditto for the E and F series. So my 2009 E150 and 2006 F250 both have old school keys. The F250 gets its theft proofing in the form of a manual transmission.

    • 0 avatar
      kvndoom

      I’m going to compare that map to the electoral map on the 9th. I’m curious to see how many Accord states are won by Clinton and pickup states are won by Trump (“swing” states will be those whose #1 isn’t an Accord or pickup, like Ohio… Dodge Caravan????)

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    I went to college in Wisconsin, and granted, it was in the 1980’s, but I was surprised at how most of my college friends who were natives of that state would just leave the keys in the ignition with the doors unlocked after parking their vehicle. Yeah, we were in a low crime area, but still…it struck me as a very strange habit. Same as leaving your front or back door unlocked, that’s always struck me as a very naive thing to do.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    With winter approaching, I’m sure it will worsen since people will start the car and go back into the house for 10 minutes. I’ve told the ladies of the house to not do that, but I know they will anyway.

    *I* do it (but I lock the doors and my keys stay in my pocket), but then again, my 10 year old Altima is worth more to me if it did get stolen, and the odds are good that when the thief sees a 6-speed instead of PRNDL they’re going to move on.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Had the Honda dealer cut me a door key for my key ring so I wouldn’t have to take the keyless fob apart to do just this! (Or to set the windows on a summer day with no rain in the forecast.). They did it for free.

  • avatar
    Drew8MR

    I leave the keys in the ignition and all my windows down every day at work. Secured lot though. Never,ever lock it anywhere,because I keep absolutely nothing inside except a Thomas guide. And by nothing I mean nothing, my glovebox,console,trunk,door cubbies,etc all completely empty.

  • avatar
    aajax

    Not a problem in my old Audi. Thanks to some electrical fault, it always locked itself. Forget the keys and you were locked out.

  • avatar
    whitworth

    I’m always amazed there are people this lazy. I have a friend that would regularly leave his front door unlocked. It takes all of 1 second to properly secure your property.

    We have a local paper in my town that has a crime report, and you’d be amazed how many burglaries and thefts are because the door was simply unlocked.

    • 0 avatar
      SC5door

      I had a room mate at my old condo on the North Side of Chicago would do that; after hiding some of his stuff one day(Macbook, iPad) he finally got the hint. Decided that my next condo’s extra bedroom only needed to be an office, not rented out to a friend–problem solved!

  • avatar
    turf3

    I am all in favor of people leaving their keys in their cars.

    This makes it more likely that a thief will steal their car rather than damaging my locked car, that does not have the keys in it, in order to steal mine.

    • 0 avatar
      Fordson

      Really? And are you willing to pay higher insurance rates because insurers usually pay these claims?

      If I were king, if your stolen car was recovered with the keys or the fob in it, you would get zip from your insurer. Why should I subsidize stupidity and laziness?

      • 0 avatar
        White Shadow

        It still takes someone to STEAL the car, even if it’s made easy because the keys were left in it. So yeah, keys or no keys, it’s still a stolen car.

        If you were king, how would you take that hard stance if someone inadvertently left his/her keys in the car and it was stolen? People aren’t perfect. Someone can take their keys 999 of 1000 times and something may happen that one time they forget. So no insurance money for them because of a single indiscretion? You’d make a lousy king. Besides, it still takes a thief to actually steal the car, which is a major point that can’t be ignored.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          And how about all those cars that aren’t recovered or are recovered as just a shell, how will you know that those weren’t stolen because they had the keys left in them? If it is recovered there is at least some chance it still has value and can either be cheaply repaired or driven as is.

          • 0 avatar
            SP

            In theory, the cars that are stolen with the keys should have far less damage to trim parts and electrical systems. If the car is recovered, this should help reduce insurance cost and potential for failed repairs.

            If thieves are trying to repair the cars and sell them overseas, interior panel damage would require panel replacement, driving up demand for used interior panels, which might drive up cost of replacement parts.

            If thieves are stealing the cars to part them out, then cars stolen with the keys should have less damage and yield more usable parts. This should reduce insurance costs somewhat.

            Plus, less broken stuff is better for the environment.

            All in all, I think that if a car is going to be stolen anyway, having it stolen using the key is a net benefit to society.

            On the other hand, if those cars stolen with the key were incremental thefts – they would not have happened without the key – then it would be better for society to keep your keys secured.

  • avatar
    White Shadow

    I wonder how many of those stolen cars are newer cars with push-button ignition and the owner of the car left the engine running while he/she pops in for a cup of coffee with the proximity key in his pocket or her purse. See my point? It’s not that the key was left in the car, it’s the ability to leave the engine running while taking the key with you to run a quick errand.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      You don’t just drive off without the proximity key, not for long anyway. You’ll get some beeps as warnings and it will shut down the car once xxx feet distance or xx time has elapsed with no key.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        No they won’t, at least not all of them. A friend has a Prius and she and her husband were going two different places far away from home but close enough and with the right timing that it made sense to take one car. So she drove to her destination, she hopped out and he took the wheel. He proceeded to drive several miles away, clearly well past the transponders range, shut off the car and went about his business. Then came the time to go pick her up and head home. The problem was he didn’t have a fob to get back in the car and start it up, it was still in her purse.

      • 0 avatar
        White Shadow

        Not in my experience. From what I’ve seen, you can keep driving for as long as you want. Just don’t shut it off though….

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Interesting. I almost want to test this on my car.

        • 0 avatar
          sgeffe

          That should be a setting in the menu tree along with seat-memory linked to the fob, and the like — car will shut off if the doors are closed without a fob in the vehicle, or that the car will only go so far without a fob present (as I don’t want to be around the turd who just jacked my car from me while at a stoplight when the car shuts down)!

  • avatar
    Fred

    The big crime in my old neighborhood is to break the glass and take what ever they can find.

  • avatar
    7402

    When I was a kid (1960s small town) there was a local grocery store with a small parking lot against a retaining wall. The lack of space mandated tandem parking–if you didn’t get a space against the wall you had to park behind someone and leave the keys in the ignition so the other person could move your car and get out. This was a very affluent area and the lot was full of Cadillacs, Lincolns, Mercedes-Benzes, Rolls Royces, etc. Nobody thought anything of not just leaving keys in the car but doing so in the expectation that someone else would move the car in their absence. Of course, being a small town, chances are one knew the owner of the car getting blocked in and would end up having a friendly chat over produce anyway, but this went on for years.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      I remember as a kid riding my bike around the neighborhood in the early 70’s and regularly seeing a car parked in front of a house with the key in the trunk hole. I looked inside and sure enough there was a key in the ignition as well. I also knew of a few people who would leave the keys in the ignition when the car was parked in their garage and most likely left them there when they went into a store, work or wherever they went.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    It’s never been as near impossible to steal cars the old skool ways, punching the ignition, etc. Now thieves are looking for any opportunity to drive it away with the keys. This includes grabbing unattended keys/fobs in bars and restuarants.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Or during the winter, or during “coat weather” at a church or a concert venue without an attended coat-check; a thief could rifle through coats for keys and fobs, then use the panic-buttons to find the cars!

  • avatar
    brn

    “one out of every eight vehicles stolen in the U.S. had the keys left inside”

    I don’t think it’s as simple as that. Yes, it’s gone up some in the last three years. I bet if you go back 20-30 years, you’ll find the percentage of vehicles on the road that are stolen is now a fraction of what it once was. That’s because cars without keys are MUCH harder to steal than they used to be. This is naturally going to shift the ratio toward cars with keys being stolen.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    This is how my sister’s car was stolen. We also suspect that after they took her car, they copied the keys because it was stolen and found abandoned three more times within a two month period.

  • avatar
    macintoshguy

    My car is a 2015 but it’s an FCA product, and a manual transmission….I leave the keys in it all the time and it’s usually running, I’m hoping some steals it, but no one bothers…

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