nhtsa infographic car theftWhat a terrible feeling. You walk outside, ready to head out to work or maybe to a friend's house, and your vehicle is gone. Auto theft is a $6.4-billion-per-year problem. In fact, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration built a handy infographic to illustrate just how big of a problem vehicle theft has become.

For example, in the time it took you to read this far, one vehicle has been stolen – statistics show that one motor vehicle is stolen in the U.S. every 33 seconds. By the time you've finished this post, there is a good chance two or three vehicles will have been lifted. And if you've already been relieved of the ownership of your vehicle, there is only a 57-percent chance of getting it back.

The likelihood of getting your vehicle stolen varies depending upon the state you live in. NHTSA tells us that California has the highest auto theft rates, followed by Florida, Texas, Illinois and Georgia. And if you live in Laredo, Texas, we'd suggest getting a club, and a lojack.... maybe throw in a pit bull to stand guard. After all, this Lone Star town has the highest auto theft rate in the nation. And we thought Laredo was best known for its authentic Tex-Mex...

While auto thefts are a huge problem, NHTSA points out that nearly half of all thefts occur because of mistakes like leaving the keys in the ignition or leaving the doors unlocked. Click on the image to the right to enlarge and take a closer look at some very sobering motor vehicle theft statistics.