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Drivers Ed

Protect Your Car from Theft

If you want to protect your car from being stolen, then there's probably no one better to talk to than a law enforcement officer.

Kevin Kelly, traffic safety specialist for the California State Automobile Association and a 25-year veteran with the California Highway Patrol (CHP), advises that you start by making your car "inconvenient to thieves."

Kelly urges motorists to "lock your cars and take your keys" ... and for good reason. "Car theft is a real crime of opportunity," contends Kelly. "When the bad guys see an easy mark, they'll take it."

He also suggests that car thieves are usually in a big rush and they prefer not to be too obvious. That also applies to others that might break into your car to steal the radio or personal belongings.

Kelly offers various other tips designed to head off car thieves.

  • Keep your car windows closed, along with the sunroof when you're away from the vehicle.
  • Don't leave a spare car key in the vehicle, because, Kelly warns, car thieves "know where to look."
  • Don't leave anything with your name and address, social security number or other personal information in your vehicle.
  • Your car is safer in your driveway than on the street; but it's even safer in a locked garage.
  • Keep in your possession your vehicle registration, proof of insurance, etc. "Your vehicle pink slip should be kept wherever you keep your valuable papers - (and) not in your wallet."
  • Make photocopies of vehicle registration, proof of insurance and other important information for other drivers in your immediate family to carry.
  • Don't leave your car with the motor running. A car left unattended and with the motor running is an open invitation to a thief. "Sometimes people on a cold morning warm up the car then race back inside to gather their belongings for work, then come out and find their vehicle is gone."
  • Park your vehicle on a well-lighted street and in well-traveled place if possible.
  • Leave your car parked in first gear or in reverse if your car has a manual transmission. Use the parking gear if you have an automatic transmission.
  • Don't tempt thieves by leaving items in plain sight on car seats or on the floor.
  • Burglar alarms and steering wheel locks, such as The Club, may help keep out thieves.

There is value in installing a car alarm and a steering wheel lock. "A lot of people ignore car alarms. However, I caught a couple of thefts in progress, said Kelly who revealed what attracted his attention. "I heard the alarm go off momentarily, then suddenly stop when the wires were disconnected. Car thieves don't like noise. Devices like The Club are useful, and I have one in my (company) van.

"You have a better chance of not having your vehicle stolen if it isn't one of the vehicles that are very popular with auto thieves," notes Kelly. However, he warns that you're not entirely safe from vehicle theft even if you drive an old, beat-up car. "Having a crummy car is no protection (because) thieves may steal a car only for its parts."

If your automobile gets stolen, Kelly recommends that you report the incident quickly. "Don't wait around on that. The more information you supply to law enforcement, the better."

Kelly indicates that victims of theft should report a vehicle's make, model, and year; license number; vehicle identification number (VIN); tire brands and their serial numbers; special equipment such as a sunroof; and identifying marks including dents and bumper stickers.

Please note that this description/explanation is intended only as a guideline.