A police force is urging people to leave thieves out in the cold by taking steps to ensure their car is not left running and unattended as it defrosts.
Durham Constabulary has issued the warning that opportunist criminals will intentionally visit residential areas on cold frosty mornings to look out for cars which have been left with the engine ticking over.
Local intelligence officer Helen Stansfield said: “With a drop in temperatures, it's important that motorists leave extra time to go outside and de-ice their windows themselves, rather than leaving the car unlocked and the engine running.
“Whilst this may feel like an inconvenience, it only takes a matter of seconds for a vehicle thief to jump in and drive off.
"By leaving your car unattended, you may end up losing more than just the ice on your windows.”
The force has issued a series of tips to prepare a car ready for the roads on an icy morning:
*Always ensure your windscreen and other windows and mirrors are fully de-iced and de-misted before driving off
*Driving without clear visibility is illegal but and puts yourself and other road users at risk
*When de-icing your windows, never leave your car unattended with the keys in the ignition, even for a second
*Stock-up on de-icing materials before the cold spell starts
*Once the windscreen has cleared, use air conditioning or heating to keep the glass mist-free
*Cover your windscreen with a blanket or windshield cover the night before frost is forecast, it will shorten the time it takes to clear your windscreen in the morning
*Put your car away in the garage if one is available. This not only keeps the car frost-free but also out of sight of would-be car thieves
*Get up a few minutes earlier if frost has been forecast. This will give you extra time to go outside and defrost your car before you need to set off for work
*Ensure your wiper blades are in good condition and make sure you have plenty of washer fluid
*Check your tyres are correctly inflated and have a legal tyre tread
*Plan your journey and allow plenty of time - as you may need to drive more slowly, particularly in fog, snow and heavy rain.