When St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster told a crowd at a mayoral forum that 60 percent of auto thefts in the city were due to drivers leaving keys inside the car, people were shocked. Politifact investigated the claim and found the mayor's estimate was indeed way off.
Of the 551 cars stolen in St. Petersburg so far this year, 460 had the keys either in the ignition or somewhere else in the vehicle.
That's 83 percent of vehicles stolen in the city.
You may be tempted, as Slate.com was, to blame forgetful elderly drivers. St. Petersburg Public Information Officer Mike Puetz says the problem actually lies with younger drivers.
"The image of St. Petersburg as a sleepy tourist town is a bit passé" Puetz told AOL Autos. "We have a higher rate of these kinds of thefts with young and middle aged adults. People figure they'll only be a minute or two. They think if they can see the vehicle they're safe, but it's not doing them any good. You're in the store and someone is stealing your car."
Younger Floridians are more likely to frequent local places thieves target, like convenience stores and coffee shops. Puetz says Florida's famous heat also plays a role. Drivers in Florida are hesitant to turn their cars off and shut down the air conditioning for a quick run into a store.
The problem is so widespread that St. Petersburg police created tongue-in-cheek public service announcement featuring a fictitious character, Willie Everlern, who is a Goofus type who ignores common sense and ends up having his car stolen while shopping for snacks.
Three cities in Florida made it onto a list of the worst driver's in America, but It's not just Florida getting hit in this crime wave caused by stupidity. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 40 percent of car thefts across the country are caused by carelessness.