Leaving Your Vehicle Unsecured

Lock CarRecent social media posts are rehashing a story from last summer in Nanaimo where a woman received a traffic ticket for leaving her parked vehicle unattended with the doors unlocked and the windows rolled down. While the law does require that you must lock your vehicle or make it secure in some manner to prevent its unauthorized use, locking the doors and rolling up the windows is not the only way to accomplish this. In most cases you can still leave the windows down to keep animals in the vehicle cool in warmer weather.

Most vehicles today are built with anti-theft devices built in. The most obvious one that comes to my mind is that when I remove my ignition key the steering and gear selector on my vehicle are automatically locked. Should I choose to leave my doors unlocked and the windows down a potential thief cannot steer the vehicle or get the transmission out of park in order to roll it away. While the contents of my vehicle may be open to theft, it is still secured against use by others that I have not given the key to.

If your vehicle is old enough that it does not have an anti-theft device or the anti-theft device that it does have is broken, then you must do something and rolling up the windows and locking the doors is probably the simplest solution. Placing a locking device on the steering wheel alone may not be enough as the vehicle may still be able to be moved, just not steered properly.

I checked with ICBC about theft insurance and was advised that leaving a vehicle unsecured would not affect my ICBC theft insurance coverage if the vehicle was stolen. The adjuster did point out that not securing the vehicle would serve as an invitation to thieves who appreciate an easy target. We all pay premiums based on losses, so preventing theft does affect our insurance costs.

Reference Links:

Leaving Parked Vehicle - Section 191 Motor Vehicle Act


Thanks for the coverage of this topic

I have several questions regarding this:

What constitutes use? You seem to be referring to it as "rolling = use", but what about not moving uses of the vehicle? Sleeping, sheltering from the rain, etc

The law states:

Leaving parked vehicle
191  (1) A motor vehicle must be equipped with a lock or other device to prevent the unauthorized use of the motor vehicle.
(2) A driver must not permit a motor vehicle to stand unattended or parked unless the driver has
(a) locked it or made it secure in a manner that prevents its unauthorized use, and
(b) if the motor vehicle is standing on a grade, turned the front wheels of the vehicle to the curb or side of the highway.

Also, the gear shifter lock is usually equipped with a hidden release, just so the vehicle can be rolled or towed.
The steering wheel is still locked by the ignition, but can be forced.

I have two vehicles, both parked underground, both equipped with factory alarm and RFID immobilizers built in to the ignition key.

Both have had their windows smashed and cars thoroughly searched. As I don't leave anything in the vehicles, the biggest loss are the replacement windows. One of the vehicles, a Toyota, windows are ~$250 with installation. But my other vehicle's window costs $700 just the part. (Mind me saying the bums were not able to get through the $700 window - smashed it, pocked it with the screwdriver... but couldn't get it out, or open the doors)

Since then I leave my windows down in the parkade (with the intent of allowing the mandatory mid-night searches), to prevent further loss, but I'm worried that I maybe contravening the 191. My locks are still locked and my alarm is armed, but "use" or "unauthorized use" is a very general term. I figure that opening a lock with no key is b&e, but my intent to leave the vehicle accessible may be against the "prudent responsibility" to prevent unauthorized use. (Although in reality it is more than prudent - $1,000+ in unrecoverable damages)


Yes, "unauthorized use" is a very broad term. I'm expecting that in a case like this it would mean being able to put it into motion in some way rather than the other instances that you raise. The trouble with many sections of the Motor Vehicle Act is that they are seldom reported as case law for me to search on various court judgment databases. I'll see if I can find anything specific for this but I am not hopeful.

Do not complicate a simple issue

The fact that the ignition needs a key to start the vehicle prevents unauthorized use.Thats it,simple.

Ignorance of the law...

Krusty, might want to read this news story from 2012.

The ignition key does not prevent tickets for not locking your vehicle.

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