What are the laws when it comes to leaving a car unattended?
Most people will tell you the best way to evade grand theft auto is to lock your car, not leave your keys in the ignition, and avoid leaving a car unattended when it’s not secure.
There is no definitive data on whether keeping keys elsewhere is sufficient enough to prevent theft. What is undeniable though, is that penalties that can apply to drivers for leaving a car unattended with the keys inside.
Unless there is someone who is at least 16, or older in the vehicle, drivers must secure it by switching off the engine, applying the parking brake, removing the key, winding up the windows and locking the doors. Failure to secure the vehicle, or remove the key from the ignition, can attract fines.
If a driver is more than three metres away from their unsecured car, it is considered unattended and fines can apply. Not removing the ignition key can attract fines starting at $108, with a maximum of $2200, depending on the state where the offence is committed. While leaving the car unsecured can also attract further penalties starting at $108, with a maximum of $2200.
Aside from the penalties inflicted by the law, another thing to consider is that many insurers also have a clause voiding insurance payouts if the vehicle was left unsecured in a public area and proper safety measures weren’t taken.
Technically, even leaving the car open with the keys in it at a petrol station, or while you run into the shops can attract fines and void insurance if something happens. Each insurer is different and drivers will need to check their individual policies, but most insurers will have a clause that states holders of the claim need to take reasonable precautions to ensure the vehicle is not in unnecessary danger.
These laws, while harsh, are in place to protect the public from thefts and therefore reduce the strain on police. Instead of investigating how thieves managed to steal an unlocked car while the keys were left in the cabin, they can be pursuing hardened criminals and focus on keeping the public safe.
Leaving a car unattended with the keys in it is illegal and can result in fines for drivers. Aside from the monetary penalties, it is best to avoid this practice to dissuade thieves from gaining easy access to vehicles.
Regardless of the legality, we encourage drivers to engage in low risk and safe driving habits both on and off the road.