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Preventing Car Crime

Vehicle thefts, carjackings, and thefts of vehicle contents are common crimes. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) offers the following suggestions to help you prevent them. 

Whenever you drive: 

  • Always lock vehicle doors and keep windows closed.

  • If your car has a flat tire or another malfunction, drive it to a well-lighted area before stopping.

  • Store briefcases, cell phones, and other expensive items out of sight.

  • Park in well-lighted areas.

  • Avoid driving at night in high crime or isolated areas.

  • Never pick up a hitchhiker.

To keep your vehicle from being stolen:

  • Always take your keys, lock your doors, and close the windows when leaving your vehicle.

  • Park your vehicle in a locked garage at night, if possible.

  • Consider getting a car alarm, a steering-wheel lock or collar, or some other antitheft device.

  • Park your car so it can't be towed easily. Turn your front wheels sharply into the curb and set the parking brake.

  • If you park in a driveway, park facing toward the street. Doing so gives thieves less cover if they try to tamper with your car.

  • Leave your ignition key only when your car is in a valet parking lot.

  • Etch your vehicle identification number (VIN) onto all window glass. Doing so will deter professional car thieves and will make it easier to identify your car if it's stolen.

To protect against carjacking:

  • When stopped at a traffic light or stop sign, leave enough space between your vehicle and the one in front of you to allow for a quick departure, if necessary.

  • If another driver bumps your vehicle, don't stop if you believe the accident is suspicious. Try to get the vehicle's license plate number and report it to the police as soon as possible. Drive to a well-traveled area before getting out of your car to inspect for damage.

  • If you're parked at a shopping mall or another large parking lot, look around for anyone or anything suspicious before approaching your car. If you believe you're being watched, go back to the store or building you came from and ask someone to escort you.

  • Avoid filling up your car at service stations in high-crime areas. Many carjackings occur at gas stations.

  • If possible, take highways instead of city streets through bad areas.

  • Stay in the center lane to avoid being blocked into the curb lane.

  • Get out and give up your car if someone tries to carjack it.

The U.S. Department of Justice manages the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS). This program tries to protect consumers from fraud and unsafe vehicles. It also helps local law enforcement officials in their attempts to stop vehicle crimes. You can learn more about the NMVTIS by visiting the program's website

For information on the NHTSA's Vehicle Theft Prevention regulations, visit the NHTSA website.