General Guides | UK Motorists Leave Cars Unattended to Defrost

Study Reveals Many UK Motorists Leave Their Car Unattended to Defrost

A January 2023 survey of 1,400 motorists revealed alarming statistics for leaving cars unattended while defrosting. For full details on this worrying trend, read our full report.

A car defrosting while unattended

Motorists across the UK were quizzed about defrosting habits in freezing temperatures, with many admitting they leave their vehicle unattended. Our stats showed:

  • 25-34-year-olds are the most at risk, with 36% admitting they leave their vehicle unattended.
  • Conversely, with over 55s only 16% say they would do the same.

Worse still, many motorists do this in cities with noted high crime rates. 30% of responders in London said they leave their vehicle unattended. This can have serious consequences beyond vehicle theft.

Our study found

  1. Age groups 25-34-year-olds (36%) are most likely to leave cars unattended.
  2. 30% of Londoners leave cars unattended.
  3. Over half of Belfast drivers leave their cars unattended.
  4. One in three motorists in Wales leave cars unattended.
  5. Over 55s are the most security conscious.

Dangers of invalidating insurance

Motorists can invalidate their car insurance if they leave the vehicle unattended. That’s even if they can clearly see the vehicle. If they can’t control what happens to it, then it’s a risk.

In many insurance contracts, a clause states you cannot leave a vehicle alone with the engine running and keys in the ignition.

Police forces across the UK have issued warnings to avoid doing this. Staffordshire police force stated:

“We are appealing to motorists not to leave their keys in the ignition and engines running while they defrost their windscreens following recent vehicle thefts in the county. It comes following three recent incidents on frosty mornings where people have left their car unattended, with the keys in the ignition.”

Motorists looking to defrost their vehicles safely should remain with the vehicle while it defrosts.

Complete list of stats by city

The list below reveals the full extent of motorists’ habits during the winter months.

City % who would leave car unattended
Belfast 53%
Birmingham 21%
Brighton 22%
Bristol 28%
Cardiff 33%
Edinburgh 23%
Glasgow 23%
Leeds 22%
Liverpool 34%
London 30%
Manchester 23%
Newcastle 27%
Norwich 36%
Nottingham 30%
Plymouth 29%
Sheffield 19%
Southampton 34%


Tips for vehicle safety in winter

To defrost vehicles in freezing temperatures, and to drive safely, motorists should:

  • Keep lights, windows and mirrors clean from ice or snow.
  • Ensure wipers and defrosters work.
  • Add anti-freeze to radiators and winter additive to windscreen washer bottles.
  • If visibility is poor, drive slowly with low-beam headlights.
  • Avoid driving in extreme snowfall.
  • Perform regular brake tests.

You should also be vigilant of ice and allow extra time for journeys so you can drive at a safer (lower) speed than normal.

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