More and More Americans Are Abandoning Reason and Handing Their Car to Thieves

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

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)]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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4 of 73 comments
  • Quasimondo Quasimondo on Nov 03, 2016

    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.

    • Sgeffe Sgeffe on Nov 06, 2016

      Does insurance pay to have a recovered car's locks re-keyed if the insured wishes?

  • Macintoshguy Macintoshguy on Nov 04, 2016

    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...

    • Sgeffe Sgeffe on Nov 06, 2016

      If it's got the monostatic transmission selector, it may run the thief down, thus doing the gene pool a favor!

  • Aja8888 Folks, this car is big enough to live in. Dual deal: house and car for $7 large.
  • Astigmatism I don't think tax credits will put me in this league, but if I could swing it, I would 1000% go for a restomod EV Grand Wagoneer:
  • FreedMike I like the looks of the Z, but I'd take the Mustang. V8s are a disappearing breed.
  • Picard234 I can just smell the clove cigarettes and the "oregano" from the interior. Absolutely no dice at any price.
  • Dartdude The Europeans don't understand the American market. That is why they are small players here. Chrysler Group is going to die pretty soon under their control. Europeans have a sense of superiority over Americans that is why the Mercedes merger didn't work out and almost killed Chrysler. Bringing European managers aren't going to help. Just like F1 they want our money. We need Elon Musk to buy out Chrysler, Dodge and Ram from Stellantis.