Collectively, automakers have invested billions into making new cars harder to steal than their predecessors. That’s part of the reason the chunky plastic key fob included with almost every new car costs hundreds of dollars to replace versus the plain ‘ol key you could get copied at any neighborhood hardware store.
Still, cars are being stolen.
But as The New York Times reported recently, it isn’t the key’s fault. It’s because owners leave their extra keys inside the car, making it exceptionally easy for a thief to drive off. The Times reported that the New York City Police Department has traced much of the theft to drivers leaving their cars idling or even turned off while they make short trips, such as to collect food at a restaurant.
Drivers toss key fobs in cup holders or center consoles and forget about them when they run a quick errand. Even drivers who take a key fob with them but leave the car running may still come back to an empty parking spot. Some cars will sound an alarm inside intended to remind drivers that they’ve left without the key, but not all.
Opportunist thieves may see drivers not stop to lock the vehicle, which is almost like an invitation to snoop — or more.
On the bright side, the NYPD says opportunist thieves typically abandon cars after a short joy ride, which means that owners will get their cars back — perhaps without the contents of the glove box, of course.
The lessons here are simple ones: Always lock your car — and always take your key fob with you.