Never… leave your car keys in the Ignition


Now here is something I had never heard of before coming over to the US. In the UK if you leave your keys in the ignition of the vehicle parked outside hour home overnight, you have every expectation that the vehicle will no longer be where you left it when you return to it, and the police will take your stolen car report while shaking their head all the time at how foolish you had been to leave your keys in it, perhaps muttering that you were ‘asking for it’. My family routinely locked the car while it was parked in the driveway, as did I, and still had stuff stolen out of various car’s.

However when I came over here, it is apparently quite normal to not only leave the key in the ignition when you park your car in your own driveway, but it is also quite normal to leave a vehicle running with the keys in it while you ‘pop in’ to a store, with the confident expectation that it will still be there in the same condition, when you return. Now that I have been here a while, I can see the point when it is -40 F outside with nasty wind-chill, you would want to leave your car running to make sure it will a/ start and b/ be warm. However I have never managed to overcome a lifetime of security to leave my keys in the ignition, and the same for wearing a seat-belt, which many people around here also seem to forgo with regularity.

This tale takes place in _________, Maine, in 20___ while I was a patrol officer one night. There was a group home in town, which I did not know until that point, for a small group of people with developmental disabilities, a nice normal looking house in a nice quiet neighborhood, staffed 24 hours a day with State licensed workers. I bet the night shift there was normally pretty quiet, a nice job if you can get it, all of the residents had their medications, nothing much to do all night.

Well one night one of the workers did not have such an easy night. At this point there was only one resident there, and so only one worker at night, who, as was his habit, had left his keys in the ignition of his unlocked vehicle in the driveway, which was in fact in contravention of the Department guidelines, his car keys should be in a secure location, for reasons which will become apparent.

Well the one remaining resident was not having a good day, the worker used all of his skills in trying to divert the resident, getting him calmed down and ready for bed, so the worker could have a nice quiet night, or so he thought. Apparently the resident managed to slip out of his bedroom while the worker was not looking, and find an open window, and he was outside, straight into the workers car, with the keys in the ignition. Of course having seen people drive all the time, he knew how to turn the ignition on and actually start the car, put his foot on the accelerator, and to put his hands on the wheel, he just didn’t know how to steer, which is why the car hit the big tree on the front lawn.

By the time I got there, the worker had extracted his unhurt charge from the car and managed to get the rather excited individual inside, and was faced with the double reality of a wrecked car, and having to admit to what happened to his supervisor. I had trouble keeping a straight face, obviously nothing was going to happen with the accident report, it just needed to be filled out, but the worker was saying his supervisor was telling him to take his charge to the emergency room for an evaluation, since he was so agitated. So I decided to kill two birds with one stone, since I was not going to get an accident report of out him while he was about as wound up as his charge, so i bundled them both into the cruiser and off to the emergency room we went.

The kids behaved on the way to the emergency room, since we were both talking to him, but one we got to the emergency room, I wanted to get the accident report done so we sat down and gathered up the paperwork. Well that did not sit well with our young driver, who must have been an attention seeker, and decided to play up for the nurses. He had been sat down on the bed in the room, we were sitting at a small table, he found a blanket and spread it over himself, below the waist, and was suddenly inspired that he was a young lady going into labor right there and then. Now I had some experience dealing with people with the same general problem as this kid, so we were content to let him try his role on the nurses, we were not going to play along, but wondered how good the nurses were. Of course his cries of labor summonsed a nurse, who was a little unsure at first because we were completely ignoring him, but soon got into the feel of things, making sure he was comfortable, and asking all sorts of questions about his labor, which he did a fairly good job of making up.

The other time I came across someone who left the keys in their car while it was running, they had left their car running outside of the local corner store while they went inside for something, and when they came out, the car was gone! So full emergency mode, the owner was only inside for a few minutes, so the car is not far away……set up roadblocks! Put out and All Points Bulletin!

Then the owner realized they had driver their partners car to the store, which was still sitting there nice and warm with the engine running…..


About limey6

Father of four, husband of one, Ex-pat ex cop Englishman living in rural Maine
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