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Keep calm and drive on: preventing auto theft

Posted on December 11, 2018

Whether you have a brand new car to get you to your new teaching gig, or you’re still cruising around in those beat-up wheels that somehow made it through high school and college with you, you probably wouldn’t want to see your vehicle in the hands of a thief.

Fact: Car break-ins and thefts happen more than you think.

In 2016 alone, 765,484 vehicles were stolen in the U.S., and only 42% were returned to their owners.1 That’s a lot of cars. The cost of it all to car owners? Approximately $5.9 billion.2 That’s $7,680 per theft for each owner. Ouch.

You’ve got enough on your plate! Take these easy steps to prevent the headache of a vehicle break-in or theft.

  • Keep your spare key in a safe place. It’s tempting to hide a key somewhere like your wheel well or in another spot on the exterior of your car. If you ever lock yourself out of your car, no problem, right? Wrong. If someone is going to steal your car, they already know all these tricks. Keep your spare on your person, in your purse, your classroom … anywhere but your car.

  • Eliminate temptation. Stop theft or robbery before it happens by eliminating any tempting signs for would-be criminals.
    • Don't leave your windows down.
    • Don’t leave valuables in plain sight or even in your car at all—$1.26 billion a year in personal items are stolen from vehicles.3
    • Park in well-lit areas.
    • Think leaving your car running in your driveway is safe? We hate to be the bearers of bad news, but more than a third of all auto thefts happen near the car owner’s residence.4
  • Use deterrents. Alarm stickers, similar to security system signs in homeowners’ yards, deter would-be criminals. They’re much more likely to think twice and move along if they see your car (or home/apartment) is equipped with an alarm. Use anti-theft devices, such as steering wheel locks or ignition switch locks. Some insurance companies will even give you discounts for having them (like Horace Mann!).5
  • Get smart. Newer models of cars use “smart keys,” which utilize an electronic authorization process to make sure it’s you, and only you, trying to get in or unlock your car. Next time you’re shopping for a new ride, look for models with this option. You might consider this one even more strongly if you live in California, Texas or Florida, as these are the three states with the most motor vehicle thefts.6
  • Make it harder for thieves. Hopefully it never comes to this, but once a thief has your car, they’re likely going to try to get rid of it as quickly as possible to turn a profit. You can slow them down. While some documents, such as your registration, should always be kept in your car, other documents may be able to help the thief. For example, they’ll have a better chance of selling the car with the title. Don’t store unnecessary documents in the vehicle.

Take these steps to reduce your risk of car theft and, of course, reduce stress. The peace of mind you’ll have is invaluable, and it will allow you to focus on your students instead of your car in the school parking lot. Keep calm and drive on.

  • 1 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
  • 2 U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Uniform Crime Reports
  • 3 City of San Mateo Police Department
  • 5 Discounts are not available in all states. See your Horace Mann insurance agent for more details.
  • 6 U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Uniform Crime Reports
AM-C04352 (Sep. 18)

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