Home Drive them like they’re hot: Summer is car theft season, so driver beware

Drive them like they’re hot: Summer is car theft season, so driver beware

Photo: Albemarle County Police

Summer is the season for sunburns, barbecues and car thieves.

Vehicle thefts peak during summer, which is why July is Vehicle Theft Prevention Month.

“Vehicle thefts have increased 25 percent over the past few years,” David Tenembaum, Virginia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co. senior actuarial manager and Drive Smart Virginia board member, said. “Having a vehicle stolen is not only an inconvenience; it’s a violation of your personal safety and security. Luckily there are precautions people can take to help prevent it from happening.”

In 2022, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 1 million vehicles were stolen, costing vehicle owners more than $8 billion. In the United States, a vehicle is stolen every 32 seconds and the favorite of thieves is passenger cars, which make up more than 74 percent of all stolen vehicles. Half of thefts are created by driver error.

“Keys left in the car is far and away No. 1, regardless of whether the vehicle is locked,” VFBMIC Senior Claims Investigator James Walker said. “This includes spare keys to any vehicle sitting in the driveway. I’ve seen situations where every car is stolen out of the driveway in one night.”

Vehicle owners are advised not to leave keys or fobs in vehicles, to park in protected or well-lit areas and to close and lock all doors and windows. A vehicle should never be left running and unattended — the situation provides an opportunity for a thief. Items, especially anything valuable, should not be left out in plain sight in an unattended vehicle.

“Don’t leave valuables in the back seat,” Walker said. “Lock them in the trunk, cover them up — thieves will break the window and steal a backpack or gym bag just to see if there’s anything good in it. While they’re in the car, they’ll go through the console to see what else is worth stealing.”

If you find yourself a theft victim, contact police and file a stolen-vehicle report. Within 24 hours, contact your car insurance company.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.