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Editors' pick: Originally published Oct. 19.

Auto thefts in the U.S. happen on a surprisingly regular basis - likely more than you think.

Data from Progressive Insurance show that more than eight vehicles are either stolen or vandalized each hour across the nation. Motorcycles and boats aren't immune from this trend, as they are among the vehicles at the top of the list for criminal theft, Progressive reports.

Calendar-wise, weekends are the worst for vehicle owners: Saturdays and Sundays are the most "active" days for vehicle thieves.

To give auto owners the upper hand on sticky-fingered auto thieves, auto experts recommend taking some direct action that, as Progressive notes, "stops thieves in their tracks."

Start with these steps:

5. Be careful at public events - Sports venues, churches, concerts, beaches, marinas, festivals and other outdoor events are juicy targets for thieves, says Todd Golling, a claims trainer at Progressive and a former Virginia state trooper. "If possible, park somewhere in full view of people, and remove all your valuables from the vehicle," Golling advises. "If you don't want it stolen, don't leave it in your vehicle or aboard your boat. A visible mobile phone or laptop is just asking for trouble."

4. Divide - and conquer - Christopher Gerhart, founder of Christopher Gerhart, LLC in
Little Rock, Ark., takes auto-theft protection seriously, and he uses one particular precaution to protect his vehicle "Separate the key fob that opens the doors from the ignition key," Gerhart advises. "That way if you lose one, you don't lose the other. If I was a thief, for a $45,000 car, it would be worth my while to pick up a stray set of keys and wander about pushing the lock/unlock button until I figured out where the vehicle was parked."

3. Prioritize key protection - Car thieves view vehicle keys as a golden opportunity, says Richard Reina, an auto expert and enthusiast with 30-plus years' experience and Product Training Director at "Thieves are not stupid; they know the easiest way to steal a car is to steal the key," Reina says. "So the number one way to prevent your car from being stolen is to protect that key." That's not always easy, as modern cars have brought about "keyless" ignitions, which only require the key to be in proximity to the car, he explains. "Now, many drivers now leave 'the key' on the dash, or in a cup holder, or in the center console, all the time," Reina notes. "It's easy to forget it's there. But those are the first places the thief will look. So, always have that key on your person, whether in your pocket, or in a purse."

2. Stop carjackers, too - Desperate thieves will go so far as to resort to carjacking, Reina states. "As horrific as that sounds, your number one defense is to always drive with your doors locked," he says. "Many modern cars will automatically lock the doors once you reach a speed of about ten miles-per-hour. If your car doesn't do that, get in the habit of locking your doors, and teach this to the other drivers in your household."

1. Learn to drive a stick - Carla O'Neill, co-owner of O'Neill's Auto Body located in Lancaster, Pa., says learning how to drive a car with a manual transmission can significantly curb auto theft. "Some experts report that the majority of car thieves are younger than the legal driving age, meaning they have minimal driving experience." O'Neill says. "That in addition to most people in America not knowing how to drive stick, makes manual cars safer -- and in my opinion, more fun. If they don't understand how to drive it, they can't steal it."

There's no good reason American drivers should be at high-risk for auto-theft. Use some common-sense measures, and mix in a few off-beat, creative strategies to keep your vehicle safe, and keep those "sticky fingered" auto thieves off of your car's door handles.