It’s not uncommon for drivers to leave their cars to warm up as they prepare to head to school, work or home on a frigid winter morning or dark and chilly evening.
Unfortunately for the owner, an unattended vehicle left running with the keys inside is an inviting opportunity for thieves.
During winter, auto theft rises by about 25 percent, according to Alex Lauderdale, a transportation analyst at EducatedDriver.org.
“This occurs largely [because] winter nights are longer and darker, offering car thieves more time and cover to carry out large numbers of vehicle thefts,” Lauderdale told AccuWeather. “People are also more likely to leave their cars unattended on cold mornings while they let them warm up and defrost, offering thieves the perfect opportunity to strike.”
A 2019 poll conducted by Branded Research found that about four in 10 United States consumers either always or sometimes warm up their cars in the winter while leaving it unattended and operating. The poll also found that about one in 10 consumers have experienced car theft as a result.
“Many drivers want their heater to fully kick on before heading to work, or often they think the car runs better once it’s warmed up, so they put the keys in the ignition, turn on the engine and head back inside to finish getting ready,” said Jake McKenzie, content manager for Auto Accessories Garage.
“Thieves know all about this wintertime practice, and they will drive around in groups throughout suburban neighborhoods looking for idling empty cars,” McKenzie said.
Idling your vehicle may not be necessary due to advances in technology.
In modern vehicles, driving helps the engine reach its ideal operating temperature faster than idling it, and the catalytic converter, which reduces emissions, operates much sooner if you’re driving the car, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Most vehicle manufacturers recommend avoiding idling your car even on the coldest days and instead driving off gently after letting it run for about half a minute.
The engine will warm up more quickly by being at work, and the interior of your car will heat up faster as well, the U.S. Department of Energy reports.
“When people discuss warming an engine up before driving to prevent wear and tear, that usually refers to the carburetor-equipped engines of yesteryear,” McKenzie said. “Chances are that your more modern vehicle employs fuel injection and an engine control unit that can operate efficiently in subzero temperatures.”
Not only might it be unnecessary to leave your car running outside your home or even a convenience store for a quick stop, but it’s also illegal in some states. Drivers could face fines in states including Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Colorado and Utah.
Preventing car theft in winter
To minimize the risk of having your car stolen during the colder months, Lauderdale recommended not letting your car out of your sight while deicing. “Save the windshield for last, as this can serve as a theft deterrent,” he said.
He also advised keeping vehicles parked in a well-lit area so that potential thieves don’t have the cover of darkness. “If you have the opportunity to park in your garage, do so. This is your safest bet,” Lauderdale said.
It’s also strongly recommended that drivers never leave their keys inside a running and unattended vehicle, even if it’s just for a minute. Keeping valuables like credit cards, cell phones and purses out of sight or hidden in the trunk is also advised.
In case your vehicle does get stolen, it’s also a bad idea to leave your vehicle title in the car, as it makes you a target for identity theft as well as helping thieves more easily dispose of your vehicle, according to the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Research Services.
Experts also suggest always keeping windows rolled up and doors locked, even if the vehicle is parked in your driveway or garage.
31 NY airports splitting $23.6M from state for upgrades
More than two dozen airports statewide are splitting $23.6 million in infrastructure funding provided by New York state.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that the state funding has been awarded to 31 airports to support safety enhancements and modernization efforts. The Democrat says the funds come from an aviation grant program that complements an upstate airport revitalization competition that has provided $200 million in state funding.
The latest round of funding will be used to build new airplane hangars and fuel facilities, improve safety and security, and expand vehicle parking facilities.
The funding is going to airports in the Albany area, central New York, Finger Lakes region, Long Island, Mid-Hudson region, Mohawk Valley, North Country, Southern Tier and western New York.
New York City lied to FEMA about vehicles damaged in Hurricane Sandy, agrees to pay $5.3 million
A hurricane of lies about city-owned Department of Transportation vehicles supposedly damaged by Superstorm Sandy has resulted in a $5.3 million settlement with the feds.
The agreement between New York City and federal prosecutors was revealed in papers filed Wednesday in Manhattan Federal Court. After the October 2012 storm that killed 43 people and caused $19 billion in property damage, FEMA offered federal money to replace damaged city-owned vehicles.
In 2014, a DOT deputy commissioner, who was not identified in papers, certified a list of 132 vehicles the agency claimed were wrecked by the apocalyptic flood. But in reality, many of the vehicles had been out of commission for years, papers show.
Some of the vehicles on the list — which included passenger cars, heavy equipment and commercial vehicles — had been “junk for years,” a DOT employee wrote the deputy commissioner.
FEMA would not have agreed to pay NYCDOT any of these funds had it known that the certifications were false and that many of the vehicles listed…were ineligible,” prosecutors wrote.
In one example, DOT sought $3 million for seven street pavers that had been designated for salvage years before Sandy.
Of those seven, the agency reported to the NYPD in 2009 that five paving machines “are sitting under the highway in the dump for seven years and were being pick(ed) apart by vandals stealing brass fittings, copper wire harnesses and anything else they could sell for scrap,” according to papers.
Nevertheless, DOT sought FEMA money to replace the pavers.
In another example, the city sought FEMA money for a trash pump and trailer, though both were taken out of service in 2010.
The settlement between the city and federal prosecutors requires the approval of a federal judge. The $5.3 million settlement includes the city relinquishing a claim to $1 million it expected to receive from FEMA.
The agreement notes that the city and DOT “did not undertake a sufficient review” of the list of damaged vehicles. The DOT deputy commissioner also “lacked personal knowledge” sufficient to sign off on the list.
“FEMA serves a critical role in providing emergency relief to those who are tragically struck by disaster. When people lie to FEMA about the cause of property damage in order to reap a windfall, it compromises FEMA’s ability to provide financial assistance to legitimate disaster victims in desperate need,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said.
The DOT on Wednesday said it had taken steps to “reduce the risk of this ever happening again.”
“In 2016, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District alerted DOT that reimbursement claims submitted by the agency to FEMA included damaged vehicles that may not have been eligible for reimbursement. We cooperated fully with the subsequent review, and worked together to reach an amicable settlement,” the agency said in a statement.
“As a result of the joint review, NYC DOT has already instituted stronger procedures to reduce the risk of this ever happening again, including a new grants compliance officer and a centralized, comprehensive tracking system for the agency’s thousands of fleet vehicles.”
The nonprofit National Insurance Crime Bureau estimated that 230,000 insurance claims for vehicle damage were made as a result of the storm.
Sandy left cars tossed across Cross Bay Boulevard in Broad Channel, Queens. In lower Manhattan, cars were piled on top of each other in underground parking decks. Close to 20,000 damaged cars were stored on a tarmac in Calverton, L.I.
Germany: Taxis denounce Transport Ministry’s deregulation plans
Conservative Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer (CSU) wants to make it easier for companies like Uber to offer their services in Germany and traditional taxi companies aren’t happy about it.
Uber first launched in Germany in 2014, but a string of court rulings and the country’s restrictive transportation laws have limited it and similar companies from offering their ride-hailing services.
In a white paper published on Monday, the Transport Ministry proposed legal changes to inject more competition into the transportation sector.
Chief among them is scrapping a rule that requires private hire drivers to return to a headquarters after every drop-off. The “obligation to return” — which doesn’t apply to taxi drivers — also forbids ride-hailing drivers from accepting new customers during the ride back.
The paper also proposes getting rid of a ban on pooling, which would allow ride-hailing drivers to pick up and drop off additional customers who are traveling on the same route.
Taxis worry about ‘existence’
The Association of German Taxis and Rental Car Services (BZP) quickly denounced the plans as “unilaterally in favor of Uber and other similar services at the expense of taxis.”
BZP’s managing director, Thomas Grätz, told the DPA news agency that changes to the “obligation to return” rule would threaten the sector’s “very existence.”
The association said it would hold a demonstration against the changes in front of the Transport Ministry building in Berlin on Thursday.
Dieter Schlenker, the chief executive of Taxi Deutschland, a cooperative, said the changes could lead to more New York City-style congestion in major German cities.
Consumers want ‘flexibility’
Germany’s leading consumer group, the Voice of the Consumer (vzbv), has welcomed the changes, saying they would inject “flexibility” into the German transportation market.
“The taxi industry and public transport services do not adequately meet the changing demands of consumers,” vzbv expert Marion Jungbluth told the Handelsblatt newspaper.
Any changes should however protect the consumer and the employees of new transportation services, she said.
The coalition government of conservatives (CDU/CSU) and Social Democrats (SPD) is expected to discuss the white paper and publish a full proposal in the next several months.
The parties agreed to reform the sector in their coalition agreement last year. Many lawmakers see a precedent for reform in the 2013 liberalization of the long-distance bus sector.
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