For many of us, our car is like a second home; we depend on it. So, it’s a good idea to take precautions to protect it from a break-in.
Nationally, Illinois ranks No. 6 among states with the most vehicle thefts across the country, and odds for theft are highest in urban areas like Chicago, according to the Insurance Information Institute. In fact, the Illinois Motor Vehicle Theft Prevention Council reports that Chicago accounted for 63 percent of Illinois vehicle thefts in 2010. And, more than 16,000 cars were stolen last year in the city, according to CBS Chicago.
The good news is that there are simple steps we can take to help avoid becoming a car theft victim.
Lock your car. We know, this one sounds like common sense, but many burglaries happen to unlocked cars. A locked door is a simple deterrent, according to Consumer Reports, so help make your car a more difficult target to thieves by keeping your doors locked.
Keep valuables out of sight. Remember the old adage, “Out of sight, out of mind,” when theft-proofing your car. When someone eyes your car for possible valuables, a power plug, a window GPS suction mount and even a brown paper bag can all seem like they’ll lead to your pricey possessions. Clear out your car before you head in for the night, or, if your hatchback or SUV has a back window that makes items in the back easily visible, think about investing in a retractable cover to keep your belongings out of sight.
Park with safety in mind. In Chicago, we typically park wherever we can snag a spot, but when you have the option, park in a busier, more well-lit area, INTERPOL suggests.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also says you should park with your wheels turned toward the curb, in order to make it harder for a potential thief to tow your car away. If you have a home with a garage, park your car inside (rather than using that extra garage space for overflow storage).
When parking in public, opt for parking garages equipped with some security features, such as a guard on duty or security cameras. If the lot doesn’t have this feature, Edmunds.com suggests that you seek out a space near the entrance, so you’ll likely be closer to people passing by, who could deter a potential thief.
Don’t forget your keys.It’s common sense, but it’s an important reminder: Never leave your keys in your car. Some people leave their car running unattended to go grab a cup of coffee or pick up a prescription, but this is never a good idea. All a thief has to do is get into your car and drive away.
Look into anti-theft devices. One way to scare off a thief is to literally scare them — with the loud sound of a car alarm. If your car doesn’t have a built-in alarm ,there are many alarms on the market now, and some have features beyond the loud honking noise. For example, one type of alarm has a starter-kill system, meaning that instead of the usual siren, tripping the alarm causes the system to prevent the car from starting, in the hope of preventing a thief from driving away with it. Research the various options to determine whether an anti-theft device is a good choice in your situation.
Protect the airbags. It may not be on your radar, but your car’s airbags are a hot commodity. More than 75,000 airbags are stolen every year, according to estimates by the Insurance Information Institute. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) says that airbag theft costs insurers and vehicle owners more than $50 million a year. New airbags cost about $1,000 from a car dealer; on the black market the cost is between $50 and $200, according to the Illinois Motor Vehicle Theft Prevention Council. In addition to taking other anti-theft measures, you may want to consider a steering wheel cover used with a steel bar steering wheel lock, such as the Club, to help protect the airbag in your steering wheel.
If you see something, say something. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the number of U.S. motor vehicle thefts rose 0.6 percent from 2011 to 2012, and eight of the 10 most stolen vehicles in Illinois were passenger cars. Honda Accords and Honda Civics are the most likely to be stolen, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau. But thankfully, cities with the highest theft rates also experience the highestrates of recovery, according to the State of Illinois. If you hear your car alarm in the middle of the night and realize someone has tried to steal or break into your car, the Chicago Police Department says to call 311.
And, it’s also a good idea to check your insurance plan. If a thief breaks into your car and steals the valuables inside, are you covered? It depends on the coverages in your policy, according to NHTSA. Look into your specific auto policy to see what’s covered, and consider adding coverage to help protect you in case of car theft.
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