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Don't Get Locked Out

Vehicle lockouts on the increase
as anti-theft devices proliferate

Calls for vehicle lockout assistance have increased significantly since the 1980's creating frustration for millions of vehicle owners and potentially dangerous situations for small children and pets, the nation's largest motor club has announced.

This past year alone, AAA responded to nearly 5 million stranded motorists who either left their car keys inside the passenger compartment or in their trunk, or misplaced their car keys altogether. One of the causes for such a sharp increase, says AAA, may be the vehicles' own theft deterrent systems.

"Most of the newer car models sold today have high-tech locking systems that serve to protect the consumer from theft but make it more difficult to gain entry if you lose your key," says Margaret Pittelkow, managing director, AAA's ERS Network. "

In 1980, lockouts represented just 1.4% of the total requests for service. At present, lockouts now represent 16.9% of the total overall call volume in North America.

In an effort to stay warm during the cold winter months, AAA commonly encounters motorists' requests for lockout assistance due to their leaving the keys in the ignition while they handle a brief errand.

"Some vehicles will automatically lock after just a few seconds, even while the key is still in the ignition," said Pittelkow. "This can create a frightening and potentially life-threatening situation."

To help reduce the number of motorists stranded due to a vehicle lockout this winter, AAA suggests members get into the following practices:

  • Always making sure you have your keys in hand when exiting the vehicle, closing the trunk or when locking the car using manual or automatic door locks.

  • Keeping a plastic, credit card-type key or spare key in your wallet, purse or briefcase.

  • Never place your keys on the front seat, in the glove compartment, in the trunk or anywhere else in the vehicle.

  • Placing your keys in your shirt or pants pocket instead of jacket.

  • Never leave your vehicle running and unattended, even during short periods of time.

  • Keep the identification code number of the key written down on a piece of paper in your wallet. It will be easier to have a copy of the key made by a locksmith.

  • Give an extra set of keys to a trusted family member or friend who is traveling with you.

  • Keep a spare set of car keys at work or at a place you visit frequently. Never leaving children or pets unattended in the vehicle with access to keys.

  • Take the key out of the ignition prior to fueling your gas tank.