NHTSA: 40-50% of vehicle theft is due to driver error

Statistics compiled by the New Jersey State Police show that from January through September of 2020, a total of 7,131 autos were reported stolen statewide,

4.4% fewer than reported during the same period in 2019. However, high-end auto thefts climbed 7.5 % to 1,501.

It is a trend being played out across the country. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) while national vehicle thefts have enjoyed a steady decline for the last three years, the number of vehicles stolen with keys or fobs left inside has been increasing some 10% each year.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, between 40 and 50% of vehicle theft is due to driver error, which includes leaving vehicle doors unlocked and leaving keys or fobs inside.

Reports from New Jersey law enforcement agencies put that percentage even higher.

While hard and fast statistics are not available, it is estimated that nearly all high-end thefts in the state involve vehicles that were left running unattended or unlocked with the key fob inside.

“Ironically, car thieves are stealing vehicles that are equipped with advanced anti-theft technology, but that technology is rendered useless when owners make the decision to leave key fobs inside their cars. This careless behavior encourages criminals to look for easy targets,” said Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “The consequences of car theft are multifaceted. Stolen vehicles are often used in the commission of crimes, and the astronomical costs to insurance companies affect the insurance premiums of policyholders. A vast amount of car thefts can be avoided by simply locking your vehicles and keeping fobs in a safe location.”

More than $6 billion was lost nationwide to motor vehicle thefts in 2019, requiring insurance companies to pay out large sums of money, costs they pass on to all of their policy holders.

“From the minute a car is reported stolen, the meter starts ticking for insurance companies whose first order of business is to conduct an investigation to determine that the claim is legitimate and not an attempt to illegally obtain a payout through fraud,” said Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Thompson. “And any injuries or damages a car thief causes to people or property after driving off with your stolen car is likely to be borne by insurance providers, which translates to higher premiums for you. That’s something to consider before leaving your car unlocked and vulnerable to car thieves. Are you willing to pay the price?”

The impact of vehicle theft isn’t just measured in dollars and cents. Once considered a low-level property crime by law enforcement departments busy battling more serious public threats, auto theft is now being viewed as a contributing factor in violent crime nationwide.

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