posted 3 years ago

Dangers Of Leaving A Car Running Unattended

GEM Motoring Assist Reinforces Anti-Theft Message

GEM Motoring Assist has reminded motorists not to leave cars unattended with the engine running. There are, of course, reasons why it is convenient to leave a vehicle ticking over - but the potential consequences outweigh the benefit. Let us consider a scenario. It is a frosty morning and a car's heater needs a few minutes to clear steam from the windscreen, etc. The motorist therefore leaves the engine running and returns to his house to prepare for work. In a perfect world this would be risk free. However, an opportunistic thief spots the vehicle and drives it away. Even more irritating, the motorist finds his insurance company less than sympathetic. Why? Because it is not necessarily obliged to pay a claim where the driver has not taken reasonable care. Leaving a car unattended with its key in the ignition is not reasonable care. The same might apply if a criminal removes items such as a windscreen mounted satellite navigation system. Furthermore, it is an offence – for which the motorist could be prosecuted – to leave an engine running unattended on a public road. That is because the motorist is not considered in law to be in proper control of the car, even if stationary.

Traps That Are Easy To Fall Into

Now, even the most careful motorist might be tempted to leave a vehicle running occasionally. Scenarios include stopping by the roadside then walking a few paces to post a letter, and pausing to chat to a passing friend. Alternatively, a motorist that realises he has forgotten his mobile might step back into the house to retrieve it. These acts only take a few minutes – but a thief needs far less time to steal a car that has its engine running. Furthermore, even those that switch off the engine might be tempted to leave a car unlocked. This saves time while (say) paying for fuel, but leaves it exposed. Finally, it is easy to come unstuck while loading and unloading. After all, a motorist that has a boot full of items - and has to make several trips into a property - might be inclined to leave the boot open as his/her arms are full of luggage. But again, this could present a thief with an opportunity and an insurance company with a get out clause. So however tempting, however briefly a car is left and however inconvenient - switch off and lock up.


What about the possibility of the unattended vehicle with its motor running suddenly jumping to gear and propelling itself toward any people and children that happen to be around at the time? Surely this should be the major consideration as opposed to the possible theft of said vehicle and void insurance policy. It definitely is possible for a vehicle to jump into gear. Worn gearbox parts, selectors etc have been known to cause this to happen, plus the handbrake may not have been applied or its components could fail too. Would the insurance company pay out if someone was killed or maimed in this way, and would the registered keeper and/or driver of the vehicle be prosecuted?

I confess to doing this but take two sets of ignition keys - one to leave the engine running, the other to lock the car. Apart from the illegality, it seems a good idea. Comments welcome.

In response to Sam wells comment...OK! so its not an offence to leave a cars engine running on your driveway but that doesn't mean its less likely to be stolen. As you suggest, we shouldn't 'tar everyone with the same brush'...on the other hand...'prevention is better than cure' just confirms that this is the state that this country (or any other for that matter)has come to.

I think that the frost may already have frozen some brain cells - 'out way' - perhaps 'outweigh' ? LOL