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Vehicle Immobilizers Cut Thefts Dramatically

August 02, 2000|JOHN O'DELL

Those annoying anti-theft alarms that wake us up at 4 a.m. when the paper carrier sets 'em off and otherwise are ignored by 99.9% of the population actually do help deter car theft.

But for real effectiveness, nothing seems to beat the passive immobilizing devices installed at the factory by a growing number of auto makers.

A new study by the Highway Loss Data Institute in Virginia shows that insurance losses for vehicles with the devices--which keep cars and trucks from being driven unless started with a factory-suppled ignition key--are about half those for the same vehicles without the systems.

The star of the study was the 1999 Nissan Maxima, which came with an immobilizer as standard equipment.

The '98 Maximas did not have the devices and in that year the institute tracked 770 theft claims for the model, with an average loss payment per vehicle of $14,148. For the '99 model with the device, the study shows, there were only 112 theft claims and the average payment dropped to $5,429.

That's the best year-over-year theft improvement the institute has ever tracked, said Kim Hazelbaker, senior vice president for the affiliate of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

But it isn't the only improvement.

"It follows a pattern we've observed in the past when General Motors, BMW and Ford added passive immobilizing anti-theft devices" to models whose theft rates the institute analyzed, Hazelbaker said.

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