Keep your car safe from opportunists with our checklist for vehicle safety
A car can hold great value - not just in monetary terms, but with the opportunities and freedoms that it can provide for you and your family. But when your vehicle gets into the wrong hands, it can not only be upsetting but inconvenient, too.
Recent figures from the RAC have revealed that the number of vehicles stolen in England and Wales has increased by a massive 30% over the past three years alone.
So, what can you do to keep your car safe? We’ve compiled a checklist to ensure that you are protecting your vehicle as best as you can.
Who’s most at risk?
ONS statistics revealed that a large proportion of vehicle theft occurs in predominantly urban areas.
Police forces such as the Metropolitan, Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire and the West Midlands consistently account for approximately 40% of vehicle offences recorded by police. These results also showed that the homes most likely to fall victim to vehicle-related theft include:
- Households comprised of adults and children, i.e. family homes
- Households occupied by private or social renters
- Houses that are not detached, such as semi-detached, terraced or flats and maisonettes.
According to research by Admiral Multicover, London, Liverpool, Leeds and Manchester are the cities where car theft and car break-in claims are most likely to be made.
Park in a well-lit and visible area
Try not to leave your car in dark streets with little surveillance. The safest place to park is next to a streetlamp, where it can be visible to passers-by all night. This is especially important to bear in mind during the darker evenings that are to come. The key is to deter thieves, and if your vehicle is in clear view they may think twice about breaking in. Additionally, nearby CCTV can also act as a deterrent.
Always double-check that your vehicle is locked
It might seem obvious, but it’s always important to make sure your vehicle is locked – even if you’re only leaving for a short period of time.
National statistics show that thefts that occurred by entering a car through an unlocked door have increased by 30% since 2006. Don’t take any chances!
Keep your valuables out of sight
Never leave handbags, tablets, mobile phones or other valuable items in sight when you leave your vehicle, as this can provide an instant target for burglars. This is particularly important when you’re out of your carbut an extra security precaution can be to hide them when you’re on the move, too.
‘Smash and grab’ crimes, as they are known, can occur when your car is at a standstill, for example when you’re in a queue of traffic. If your valuables are placed on your passenger seat, it can make it easy for passer-by to reach in and grab them. Reduce this risk by placing valuables under seats or in a glove compartment.
Additionally, ensure that your doors are always locked from the inside when you’re in congested areas.
Don’t store items in the boot of your car overnight
Similarly, to this, in the likelihood that you do become the victim of vehicle-related crime, avoid any nasty surprises and remove all valuables from your car overnight. It’s not worth the risk! If you can, remove plug-in radios or sat-nav’s as well. The less lucrative you can make your vehicle appear for thieves, the less likely it is going to be that you will be targeted.
Keep your documents at home
While it’s totally acceptable to leave your vehicle handbook in your car, make sure you keep close hold of the documents which prove your vehicle ownership.
This document is called a V5C, and contains all the essential information about your car such as engine size, colour, manufacturer, date of registration and the registered owner. If left in the vehicle and then stolen, a V5C can be used for alternative purposes such as the re-selling of your car, and it can be difficult to obtain a new copy for yourself.
Take care of your keys
Never leave the keys in the ignition while you’re out of the car. Generally, people tend to do this on winter mornings in order to warm their vehicle up or de-ice the windscreen. However tempting it may be to leave the engine running and pop back into the house whilst this is happening, ensure that you stay in your car.
Recent statistics suggest that less and less burglars are forcing entry into cars, and are managing to gain entry from simply entering unlocked vehicles. So stay vigilant and don’t take any chances, especially if you live on a busy road. As well as this, make sure you keep your keys out of sight while stored at home. Make sure they’re kept away from your windows.
Secure exterior fittings
Information obtained from the ONS suggests that exterior fittings are among the most likely stolen items on your car. Items such as hub caps, wheel trims or number plates should be secured and undamaged to avoid theft.
This goes for your locking system, too. Remember that if your vehicle looks like it is damaged or fitted with low-quality exterior fittings, it can make it an easier target for burglars.
Consider installing an anti-theft system
If you wish to be particularly careful, and if you want to spend a bit more money, consider installing an anti-theft system as a preventative method.
These can range from home security wheel clamps, immobilisers, or driving wheel locks, which can all be purchased at a reasonable price from national car retailers.
As well as this, consider buying a GPS tracking device for your car which can come in useful if someone was to drive away with your vehicle.
Mark Godfrey from the RAC commented: “We fear thieves are now becoming more and more well equipped with technology capable of defeating car manufacturers’ anti-theft systems.
“Anti-theft devices such as steering wheel locks which were popular in the 1980s and early 1990s are starting to make a comeback as they are still a very effective visible deterrent.”
Head of claims at Admiral, Lorna Connelly, said: “Relatively few of the claims we deal with are for car crime, and the improvement in car security has no doubt resulted in fewer thefts in recent years. However, our research shows it’s still a problem that hasn’t gone away. Car owners should do whatever they can to make sure they aren’t a victim.”
“Simple measures such as making sure cars are well secured with alarms and security cameras and that valuable items are not on display for all to see will help deter criminals.”