Drivers warned of car theft risk when defrosting windscreen

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The last few weeks have seen temperatures drop across the UK, with millions of drivers battling through frost, ice and snow to go about their daily lives. However, experts and even the police are warning drivers not to let their guard down when defrosting their car or they could have their insurance invalidated or even have their car stolen.

A January 2023 survey of 1,400 motorists revealed alarming statistics for leaving cars unattended while defrosting. 

It found that drivers between the ages of 25 and 34 were the most at risk, with 36 percent admitting they leave their car unattended.

Conversely, with those over the age of 55, only 16 percent said they would do the same.

Worse still, many motorists choose to do this in cities with noted high crime rates.

Almost one-third of responders in London said they leave their vehicle unattended. This can have serious consequences beyond vehicle theft.

Kerry Fawcett, Digital Director at iCompario, urged drivers to remain safe when defrosting their car and ensure they do not leave their car unaccompanied while running. 

She said: “The results of our survey could be seen as worrying as they show the high number of motorists choosing to leave their vehicles unattended whilst waiting for windscreens to defrost. 

“Whilst it might be seen as a way to stay warm yourself by staying in your home whilst you wait, it’s important to recognise the risks involved. 

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“During the cold snap in December, police forces warned of the dangers of leaving your car running and staying indoors and with more cold weather on the way.”

Motorists can invalidate their car insurance if they leave the vehicle unattended.

Even if they can clearly see the vehicle while it’s defrosting, drivers are taking an unnecessary risk as they can’t control what’s happening.

In many insurance contracts, a clause states people cannot leave a vehicle alone with the engine running and keys in the ignition.

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Police forces across the UK have issued warnings to avoid doing this. 

Staffordshire police force stated: “We are appealing to motorists not to leave their keys in the ignition and engines running while they defrost their windscreens following recent vehicle thefts in the county. 

“It comes following three recent incidents on frosty mornings where people have left their car unattended, with the keys in the ignition.”

Motorists looking to defrost their vehicles safely should remain with the vehicle while it defrosts.

Kerry Fawcett continued, saying: “Motorists should be cautious around continuing to do this. 

“We all know that the few minutes waiting in the car first thing in the morning isn’t the ideal start to the day when temperatures are low, but it could be worthwhile rather than possibly becoming a victim of car theft.”

With the winter weather still present, motorists are frequently told to drive safely by keeping lights, windows and mirrors clean from ice or snow.

People should add anti-freeze and ensure wipers and defrosters work, as well as performing regular brake tests.

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