Vehicle Lockouts On The Increase As Anti-Theft Devices Proliferate, AAA Reports

Orlando, Fla. – 11/16/2005

AAA Offers Motorists Tips On How To Prevent Lockouts This Holiday Season

Calls for vehicle lockout assistance have increased significantly since the 1980’s creating frustration for millions of vehicle owners and potentially dangerous situations for small children and pets, the nation’s largest motor club announced today.

This past year alone, AAA responded to nearly 5 million stranded motorists who either left their car keys inside the passenger compartment or in their trunk, or misplaced their car keys altogether.

One of the causes for such a sharp increase, says AAA, may be the vehicles’ own theft deterrent systems.

“Most of the newer car models sold today have high-tech locking systems that serve to protect the consumer from theft but make it more difficult to gain entry if you lose your key,” says Margaret Pittelkow, managing director, AAA’s ERS Network.

In 1980, lockouts represented just 1.4% of the total requests for service. At present, lockouts now represent 16.9% of the total overall call volume in North America.

In an effort to stay warm during the cold winter months, AAA commonly encounters motorists’ requests for lockout assistance due to their leaving the keys in the ignition while they handle a brief errand.

Also, AAA strongly discourages motorists from leaving small children or pets unattended in a vehicle for any length of time while the engine is running, no matter the weather condition.

“Some vehicles will automatically lock after just a few seconds, even while the key is still in the ignition,” said Pittelkow. “This can create a frightening and potentially life-threatening situation.”

During last year’s holiday season, 849,700 motorists called AAA for a lockout service. Requests for this type of service were 16.9 percent of AAA’s total call volume for the months of November and December.

To help reduce the number of motorists stranded due to a vehicle lockout this holiday season, AAA suggests members get into the practice of:

Always making sure they have their keys in hand when they exit the vehicle, close the trunk or when locking the car using the manual or automatic door locks.

Keeping a plastic, credit card-type key or spare key in their wallet, purse or briefcase.

Never placing their keys on the front seat, in the glove compartment, in the trunk or anywhere else in the vehicle.

Placing their keys in their shirt or pants pocket instead of a jacket.

Never leaving their vehicle running and unattended, even during short periods of time.

Keeping the identification code number of the key written down on a piece of paper in their wallet. It will be easier to have a copy of their key made by a locksmith.

Giving an extra set of keys to a trusted family member or to a friend who is traveling with them.

Keeping a spare set of car keys at work or at a place they visit frequently. Never leaving children or pets unattended in the vehicle with access to keys.

Taking the key out of the ignition prior to fueling your gas tank.

In November and December of 2004, AAA-affiliated service personnel towed 2.1 million cars and trucks; changed 691,336 flat tires; provided fuel to 75,947 motorists that had run out of gas; extracted 90,529 stuck vehicles; and assisted 211,861 motorists requiring miscellaneous roadside assistance.

Another notable roadside service request during the winter season, states AAA, is battery failure. During last year’s winter holiday, AAA handled 964,938 battery-related incidences, and provided 51,541 stranded motorists with new batteries through its mobile Battery Service Program.

Automotive battery-related calls currently represent 19 percent of the total volume for service requests. This, says AAA, is by far the second most common roadside service performed nationally.

With more than 1,200 AAA mobile battery service vehicles in the United States and Canada, AAA anticipates it will replace more than 70,000 batteries during this year’s holiday season, thereby reducing that member’s repeated request for service or even a tow.

Throughout all of 2004, AAA handled a total of 29,424,173 service calls in the United States and Canada.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides its more than 48 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automobile-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the internet at: www.aaa.com.

# # #