Baltimore City residents are facing a double whammy of rising car thefts and soaring insurance rates. According to a recent report by Insurify, a website that allows users to compare insurance prices, Maryland policyholders have seen a 16% increase on their bills this year, placing the state among the top 10 most expensive for car insurance. However, the situation is even worse in Baltimore City, where auto thefts have skyrocketed by 229% compared to this time last year. This has led to a 31% surge in the city’s insurance rates, taking the typical rate from $296 a month to $388, well above the state average.
What’s Behind the Car Theft Spike?
One of the reasons for the alarming rise in car thefts is a social media challenge that has gone viral on TikTok. The challenge involves stealing certain models of Kia and Hyundai vehicles using a screwdriver and a USB charging cord. These models, made between 2010 and 2021, have a push-to-start system but do not have an anti-theft “immobilizer” to prevent the car from being started without the correct key. As a result, they are easy targets for thieves who can bypass the security system in seconds.
According to the Baltimore Police Department, 577 Kias and Hyundais had been stolen in Baltimore as of May 11, representing 41% of all stolen vehicles. The city has filed a lawsuit against the automakers, claiming that they have created a public nuisance and caused significant consequences for city residents.
How Does Car Theft Affect Insurance Rates?
Another reason for the high insurance rates in Baltimore is the increased risk of car theft. Insurance companies use various factors to determine the premiums they charge their customers, such as age, driving record, credit score, and location. However, one of the most important factors is the frequency and severity of claims in a given area. If an area has a high rate of car thefts, insurance companies will charge more to cover the potential losses.
This means that even if a person does not own a Kia or Hyundai, or has never had their car stolen, they will still pay more for their insurance because of the overall crime rate in their community. This can create a vicious cycle, as higher insurance costs can discourage people from buying or keeping cars, which can reduce mobility and economic opportunities.
What Can Car Owners Do to Protect Themselves?
While car theft is a serious problem that requires collective action from law enforcement, automakers, and policymakers, there are some steps that car owners can take to protect themselves and their vehicles. Some of these steps are:
- Park in well-lit and secure areas, preferably with surveillance cameras or security guards.
- Use additional anti-theft devices, such as steering wheel locks, brake pedal locks, or GPS trackers.
- Never leave valuables or personal items in plain sight inside the car.
- Never leave the car running or unattended, even for a few minutes.
- Report any suspicious activity or attempted thefts to the police immediately.
Additionally, car owners can shop around for different insurance options and look for discounts or incentives that can lower their premiums. Some insurance companies may offer lower rates for customers who have anti-theft devices installed in their cars, or who take defensive driving courses. Car owners can also adjust their deductibles or coverage levels to suit their needs and budget.
Car theft is a major issue that affects not only the safety and security of car owners, but also their financial well-being. By being aware of the risks and taking preventive measures, car owners can reduce their chances of becoming victims and save money on their insurance costs.