Don’t let opportunist thieves steal your defrosting car warns police

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POLICE are urging drivers not to leave their car unattended with the engine running as it defrosts during the current cold spell.

“Not only is leaving a car ‘ticking over’ unattended an offence under the ‘Road Traffic Act’, but leaving your keys in your car also makes it easy to steal” explained Warwickshire Police Community Protection Manager George Stepney.

“Unfortunately we know there are opportunist thieves who make a point of going to residential areas on cold frosty mornings on the lookout for cars which have been left with the keys in the ignition and the engine running.

“It takes them a matter of seconds to jump in and drive your car away – then it won’t just be the frost that you find has disappeared – your car may have vanished too.”

Considering the value of the automobiles left unlocked and unattended on driveways across the county, it’s not surprising that there is an attraction to commit crime by some. Every year, unattended cars are stolen from driveways, leaving unsuspecting victims facing a tricky situation.

Not only have they lost their car, they could have also invalidated their insurance.

Trying to sort out the aftermath of a theft of this nature can be extremely time consuming and costly. Locks may need changing if other keys have been stolen and alternative arrangements put in place to get to work or pick the kids up until things can be sorted out.

Mr Stepney said: “As the weather gets colder, some motorists become careless and leave keys in their ignitions as their vehicles defrost, and go back into their homes. This is a perfect opportunity for a thief and even if you leave your vehicle for only a few moments you may end up losing more than just the ice on your windows.”

By neglecting to attend an unlocked and running vehicle, insurance companies could reject a claim as ‘reasonable care’ has not been taken by the owner. The worst-case scenario is that the car has been stolen, not recovered and insurance has been invalidated leaving the owner with no way of recovering the loss. Given the potential financial implications, it makes sense to defrost your windscreen without leaving the vehicle running and unattended.

But what should you do instead?

Firstly, all drivers should clear off frost from the windscreen and side view windows before they drive off.

Mr Stepney said “At this time of year the low temperatures and icy weather can cause very poor driving conditions. However, there’s a lot that drivers can do to make their journey as safe as possible. One of the most important things to do is to make sure you have a completely clear windscreen and side windows before you drive off.

If your view is in any way obscured, be it because it’s misted up or it’s covered in ice or snow, then you put yourself and others in serious danger.

You should clear the entirety of the windscreen, not just a small section the driver sees out of, as well as the side and rear windows. Drivers should scrape away any frost, ice or snow and use the air conditioning or heating to keep the glass mist free.” he added.

Advice to help reduce the likelihood of your car being stolen during icy weather includes:

* Always remove the keys from the ignition, even if you get out to open the garage door.

* Stock-up on de-icing materials before the cold spell starts

* Cover your windscreen with a blanket or windshield cover the night before frost is forecast, it will shorten the time it takes to clear your windscreen in the morning

* Put your car away in the garage if one is available. This not only keeps the car frost-free but also out of sight of would-be car thieves.

* Get up a few minutes earlier if frost has been forecast. This will give you extra time to go outside and defrost your car before you need to set off for work.

* Take a cup of tea out to the car with you and sit inside while the engine defrosts the windscreen.