Dec 6 2012 by Jamie Bowman, Skelmersdale Advertiser
Motorists warned after thief steals defrosting car
POLICE have warned freezing motorists to be on their guard after a man stole a car while the owner waited for it to heat up and defrost.
The offender took the car, which was parked on Beacon Green, Skelmersdale, at 8am on Friday, November 30.
The owner had left his vehicle unattended with the keys in the ignition.
A similar incident was reported just an hour later when a man attempting to take a car on Delph Park Avenue, Aughton, was disturbed by the car’s owner. The offender then fled the scene.
Police Sergeant Paul Bamber from West Lancs Police said: “As the cold weather is now here and people getting up for work in the morning see the dreaded frost on the windscreen, it is easy to see why they would want to turn the ignition on and go back inside their house whilst the car defrosts so that when they get into the car it is nice and warm.
“This does however present the owner of the car with a problem.
“Teams of thieves will often drive around and drop each other off to steal numerous vehicles that have been left with the keys inside.
“People leaving car keys in their vehicles whilst unattended are giving an open invite to thieves.
“Often house keys will also be on the bunch of keys which leaves homes vulnerable to a burglary in the future.
“Insurance companies will not pay out in these circumstances because the owners are required to take all reasonable steps to prevent theft of their vehicle.”
The Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) has confirmed that most motor insurance policies include a clause that excludes cover for theft, attempted theft or malicious damage, if the ignition keys are left “in or on the vehicle”.
According to the watchdog, drivers who start their engines for a defrost and pop back indoors can lose out if an opportunist thief intervenes.
Based on recent Court of Appeal judgements, a driver who moves too far away from the keys to prevent a theft is unlikely to be paid out.
The FOS says it is frequently called upon to decide disputes where the consumer thinks the insurer has applied the exclusions unfairly, in order to turn down a claim.
Sgt Bamber added: “Historically, teams have operated during the cold period knowing that car owners adopt this ill-advised practice.
“Please ensure you take all reasonable precautions when defrosting your car and do not become a victim.”