Temperatures in St. Petersburg are topping out at over 90 degrees this week, humidity is high, and winds are minimal. It is certainly tempting to turn on the air and let the car run in your driveway while you wait for the interior to cool to comfortable levels. After all, there is nothing worse than hot leather sticking to your bare skin. But, it is a very bad idea to leave a running and unattended vehicle and walk away. This is an easy target for local thefts.
According to Florida Statute 316.1975, it is illegal to leave a motor vehicle unattended in Saint Petersburg without stopping the engine and removing the key. If you are caught cooling your vehicle while not in it, you could actually face a citation and fine.
In addition to the fines, and as mentioned above, running vehicles are targets for car thieves. In most cases, car insurance will cover theft, so long as it can be proven that the vehicle was taken without permission. However, that could also result in higher premiums or, in some cases, cancellation of the policy. Depending on your driving history, and your part in the car theft, you could be denied insurance coverage. To make matters worse, when you are partially responsible for a car being stolen, you could also be responsible for what the other driver does with it.
If someone steals your car and does damage to others’ property, harms people, or kills someone, you could face repercussions. Though it doesn’t sound fair, the courts feel that the victim of car theft is not responsible or negligent, if he or she did not, in some way, contribute to the theft. What does that mean? It means that if you left the car running in the driveway, with the keys in the ignition and the doors unlocked, you were essentially inviting someone to steal it. You, therefore, aided in the theft that ultimately lead to destruction and that could result in personal injury lawyers, courts, or insurance companies coming back to you for some of the damages due to victims.
This is not to say that you are liable for all damages done; neither will your insurance company have to foot the entire bill. You could be found to carry a percentage of the negligence, which means that you will be responsible for a percentage of the damages.
So, let’s say that someone takes your car while you have it running in your driveway, speeds down the road and hits another car, leaving the driver in critical condition. That car is totaled and, though life has been saved, the other driver faces permanent disability. A new car can be worth $50,000. Initial medical expenses (ambulance ride, hospital stay, surgeries, etc.) can easily reach $10,000 or more. Then, there are the ongoing medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering to consider. If the final damages amount to $1,000,000 and you are found ten percent negligent, you (or your insurance company) could owe $100,000. That’s a lot to pay for a few minutes of comfort in your car.