Guiding consumers since 2009

South Africans leave valuables in their cars overnight

By Staff Writer

 A new South African survey has revealed that 82% of respondents leave expensive belongings in their cars overnight, not only exposing their motor vehicle to potential expensive break-ins but also leaving their personal and sometimes irreplaceable belongings vulnerable to being stolen.

According to Christelle Fourie, Managing Director of MUA Insurance Acceptances, the survey, which was conducted on behalf of MUA, is particularly alarming given the recent South African Police Service Crime Report for 2010, which revealed a 1.8% increase in theft from or out of a motor vehicle.

“For many people, their motor vehicles are an extension of their homes – a place where they feel safe and comfortable. As a result, it is a common mistake made by many to simply leave certain belongings in the car overnight believing that they will be safe until the morning.”

The most common item left in motor vehicles were laptops with 24% of respondents admitting to leaving theirs in their cars overnight, according to the survey conducted by MUA Insurance Acceptances in conjunction with RISKSA. Small electronic devices such as mobile phones or cameras came in second with 22% and GPS devices were the third most common item left in cars.

“In South Africa, we tend to be far more cautious on the issue of theft and safety, as a result of our high crime rate. However, the reality is that many motorists do still leave belongings overnight in their vehicles, and sometimes on full display to potential burglars.”

Fourie says the types of claims for items that have been stolen from consumers’ motor vehicles have increased markedly following the recent criminal ‘trend’ of thieves interfering with the remote control locking of vehicles. “Motorists press their remotes believing they have locked their vehicle. However, interference – deliberate or otherwise – by third party remotes being pressed at the same time reportedly interferes with the locking process leaving the vehicle open and exposed to petty criminals.”

“The problem for the consumer with these cases is that signs of forced entry are usually required by the insurer in order to show that the vehicle was broken into. If there is no sign of forced entry then the insurer must work on the assumption that the client simply failed to lock the car. In doing so, any claim would be rejected as the client failed to act with due care and diligence.”

Fourie says motorists must be vigilant and ensure that when they leave their vehicle it is securely locked. “Go back to the vehicle to double check, as failure to do this may leave consumers at risk of having a claim repudiated.”

“Unless belongings that have been left behind in a vehicle were hidden from view, it is highly likely that such a claim may be repudiated. In South Africa especially, terms and conditions stipulated by most insurers insist that belongings not be left on display. It is also important that clients are made aware of the fact that this general restriction often applies regardless of whether the client has unspecified all risks cover in place, as such a theft would be seen as negligence on the part of the client.”

Fourie says in order to ensure that a claim will be covered most insurers will insist the motorist stores those items left in an unoccupied car within a locked compartment such as a cubby-hole or boot. “If the vehicle does not have a boot in which bigger items may be stored away, then it is possible that an additional excess will also apply.”

“The best advice, however, is to ensure that any expensive and/or sentimental belongings are not kept in a vehicle at all,” concludes Fourie.

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