RICHMOND—Summer may be perfect for barbecues and vacations, but it’s also a hot season for car thieves.
Vehicle thefts spike during summertime, and that’s why police departments, transportation associations and organizations like Drive Smart Virginia are reminding people about car security during July’s Vehicle Theft Prevention Month.
“Vehicle thefts have increased 25% over the past few years,” said David Tenembaum, Virginia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co. senior actuarial manager and Drive Smart Virginia board member. “Having a vehicle stolen is not only an inconvenience; it’s a violation of your personal safety and security. Luckily there are precautions people can take to help prevent it from happening.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that more than 1 million vehicles were stolen in 2022, costing vehicle owners over $8 billion. A vehicle is stolen every 32 seconds in the U.S., and passenger cars are thieves’ favorites—making up over 74% of all stolen vehicles.
About half of those thefts involved driver error.
“Keys left in the car is far and away No. 1, regardless of whether the vehicle is locked,” explained James Walker, VFBMIC senior claims investigator. “This includes spare keys to any vehicle sitting in the driveway. I’ve seen situations where every car is stolen out of the driveway in one night.”
In addition to never leaving keys or fobs in cars, drivers should park in protected or well-lit areas, close and lock windows and doors, and never leave the area with the vehicle running—a quick trip into the house or store is prime opportunity for a thief.
Items left in plain sight also entice thieves.
“Don’t leave valuables in the back seat,” Walker advised. “Lock them in the trunk, cover them up—thieves will break the window and steal a backpack or gym bag just to see if there’s anything good in it. While they’re in the car, they’ll go through the console to see what else is worth stealing.”
While vehicles’ antitheft systems can deter thieves, using secondary security devices like steering wheel locks adds protection and makes thefts more challenging—especially for Hyundais and Kias, which have become targets.
If you find yourself a victim of vehicle theft, immediately contact the police to file a stolen-vehicle report. Call your insurance company within 24 hours of the theft to file a claim.
Submitted by Farm Bureau Virginia