Keep auto thieves out of your ride.

Think about how dependent you are on your car or truck. Without it, how do you get to your job or to the bank or to the grocery store? In fact, about the only place you wouldn’t to go without a car is the gas station. For everything else, we’re a society that has become almost completely dependent on our motorized transportation.

Now, how would you feel if your car was suddenly missing from your driveway or the parking space you used at a restaurant? It could happen.

After eight consecutive years of decline, vehicle theft is on the rise again in the United States, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau. Showing the most noticeable rise in auto theft during 2012 were the western states, particularly California and Washington.

Here are some statistics you might find interesting:

• A motor vehicle is stolen every 44 seconds in the U.S.

• 40 to 50 percent of vehicle theft is due to driver error and only about half of the vehicles are recovered.

• The most popular items that attract thieves are the engine, transmission, air bags, radios, GPS navigation systems, iPods, laptops and purses.

However, there are some steps you can take to lessen the chances of becoming an auto theft victim. Here are eight of them from Consumer Reports:

• Lock your car. It is common sense that many thefts happen to unlocked vehicles. The goal is to make your car less desirable than others, and a locked door is a simple deterrent.

• Never leave your car running unattended and always take your keys with you. Otherwise, you are inviting thieves to drive off with your ride.

• Keep windows closed when you park and leave your vehicle. A slender arm or clothes hanger can reach in through even a narrow opening to unlock the door.

• Don’t store valuables or expensive electronics in plain sight. Don’t create an unnecessary temptation: take portable devices with you.

• Park in a well-lighted, public place when running errands and at home. Also, a car will be safer in a garage than in a driveway or at a curb.

• Use a visual warning device, such as a blinking light, as a deterrent. An alarm can be effective, but it is even better if the crook doesn’t break into the vehicle in the first place. If your car is not factory-equipped with these features, they can be installed at a local automotive stereo shop.

• Smart keys or a fuel cut-off system, a.k.a. engine immobilizer, are standard on many late-model cars and can add security. Thieves are less likely to steal a car they cannot start.

• For advanced protection, install a GPS or radio frequency tracking system in your vehicle to help police find it.

Have you ever had a car or truck stolen? If so, are you doing anything differently now to keep it from happening again?


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