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Who hasn’t rushed out to warm up the car and defrost the windshield on a cold Michigan morning. Few residents think that leaving the keys behind for that quick couple of minutes could leave them without a car, permanently. New data says that’s exactly what is happening across the state.
When the weather turns cold, it can be very tempting to leave it running in your driveway or while you quickly run in to a store or coffee shop. But that decision puts warmth over safety and could leave you without a car to come back to.
New data released by the National Insurance Crime Bureau shows that those few moments unattended make Michigan a prime candidate for key-enabled car thefts. In 2015, there were over 57,000 car thefts that used a key or fob. That’s 22% higher than in 2014. Michigan ranked 6th in this kind of crime with 7,037 of these “freebie car thefts.” The risk of this kind of crime is highest when the weather turns cold: in October, November, and December.
Freebie car thefts are called this because all the thief has to do is get into the car and drive away. When a Michigan resident leaves the keys in the ignition, there’s nothing to stop them from picking up an easy hit.
Unfortunately, the Metro Detroit area is one of the worst. It ranked second in key-assisted thefts, with 4,380 happening in the area spanning from Detroit to Warren and Dearborn. Only the Las Vegas metro area had more.
And when it comes to getting their stolen cars back, Michigan drivers aren’t much better off. 597 cars that were stolen in a key-assisted theft from 2013 to 2015 are still missing. Of them, over 450 are in the Metro Detroit area. That makes the city the worst in the country at recovering the stolen vehicles.
The good news is that the fix is relatively simple. Installing a remote starter can allow you to thaw out your car from the warmth of your home without creating a safety risk. If you can’t afford to have a remote starter installed, commit to never leaving your car running and unattended.
It’s when Michigan motorists become complacent that auto thefts happen. According to Novi Police Lieutenant John Nelson:
“It comes down to the fundamentals of securing your property,” he said. “[Motorists say] ‘I’m just going in to get a gallon of milk or grab some cigarettes in 7-Eleven. Nothing will happen to my car in the two minutes I’m gone,’ so they jump out. Criminals are looking for easiest opportunities, so if we make it too easy, they’ll take advantage of it.”
Keep your property safe this winter. Keep your keys close to prevent car theft and make sure your car is there when you need it.
David Christensen is an auto accident attorney at Christensen Law in Southfield, Michigan. He helps the victims of car crashes collect auto insurance benefits. If you have been seriously injured, contact Christensen Law for a free consultation.