car keyThe number of stolen cars with keys inside of them is increasing amid an overall decline of vehicle thefts, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).

From 2012 to 2014, the top five states for stolen vehicles with keys inside them were:

  • California — 19,597
  • Texas — 8,796
  • Florida — 7,868
  • Michigan — 7,726
  • Ohio — 7,452

For the same two-year period, 126,603 vehicles were reported stolen with the keys left inside. As a percentage of overall thefts, 5.4 percent of vehicles stolen (39,345) in 2012 had their keys in them. That figure rose to 6 percent (42,430) in 2013, and in 2014, it increased again to 6.7 percent (44,828).

“To show the significance of these numbers, if the 44,828 thefts were removed from 2014’s reported estimated total of 659,717, the thefts would fall to 614,889. The last time national vehicle thefts were that low was 1966,” says the NICB press statement.

In many states – including Colorado, New York, Ohio, Washington and Texas — you can be cited for leaving your keys in the car while it is unattended and running. Fines for such tickets are typically up to $200 depending on state laws.

Beyond the potential for a ticket, leaving your keys in the car makes it an easy target for thieves. Your negligence in having the keys in the ignition may allow your car insurance company to deny your comprehensive insurance claim if the car is stolen.

To find out what your state’s laws are on leaving keys in your car and the vehicle unattended, whether the engine is left running or not, contact your Department of Motor Vehicles.

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Michelle Megna
Contributing Researcher

Michelle is a writer, editor and expert on car insurance and personal finance. She's a former editorial director. Prior to joining, she reported and edited articles on technology, lifestyle, education and government for magazines, websites and major newspapers, including the New York Daily News.