NEW YORK (TheStreet) — An insurance-industry analysis of some 2 million U.S. auto thefts has made a key finding: Don't leave the keys in your car.
That seems pretty obvious, but the National Insurance Crime Bureau found that nearly 127,000 thefts reported between 2012 and 2014 involved keys either left in vehicles or otherwise obtained by thieves.
"Am I shocked by these numbers? Not one bit — in fact, I'm sure the numbers are probably higher," NICB President Joe Wehrle says. "Many times, [leaving keys in cars] is not admitted to in the police report or insurance claim."
The NICB, a nonprofit that does research for the industry, scoured three years of theft records and found that 126,603 cases involved someone using a vehicle owner's key to swipe the person's car.
While some incidents probably involved, say, thieves swiping keys from purses, the NICB believes most stemmed from drivers failing to take keys with them after parking cars.
"Stealing a vehicle is very difficult with today's anti-theft technology, [but] leaving the keys in the vehicle is an open invitation for the opportunistic car thief," Wehrle says.
All told, the NICB found that thefts involving drivers' keys occur every 12 minutes on average and account for 6.1% of all U.S. car thefts. In fact, the group says that if 2014's 44,828 cases hadn't happened, America's total auto thefts would have dropped to 1966 levels.
Perhaps most alarmingly, the NICB discovered that the number of vehicles stolen using drivers' keys rose during each of the past three years, even as overall car thefts fell.