When the car door slams and your keys are still inside

Well, I've done it again -- locked the keys inside the car. And to make matters even worse, the engine is still running. Sound familiar?

If so, you're one in a million. About a million drivers a year stumble into the lost-key/locked-door pothole, many of them forgetting the key as they jump out of the car. Almost always, you remember the key the minute you slam the door.

While manufacturers have installed bells and voices to alert motorists to remember their car keys, the familiar ``lost key'' refrain is played over and over again. One remedy might be for carmakers to require motorists to use a key to lock the driver-side door. Some cars already have this feature. All the doors on the car can be locked by push button -- except the driver's door.

You can always hide a spare key in a magnetized box, of course, placing it in an out-of-the-way place on the car. But you can be sure the car thief knows all the obvious hiding spots. Also, the box can fall off the car, even in a parking space.

Why not carry a spare key -- or two if one operates the ignition and the other the doors? Slip it into a safe place in your wallet or purse. You may never need the spare, but it's handy to have in a pinch.

Ford's push-button entry system is another loss-proof option, although it's only available on some of the company's upper-crust cars. A 5-digit code unlocks the car door. But even if you have the push-button option, you'd better write down the combination and put it in some unobtrusive place in your wallet -- just in case.

Losing, or locking in, a car key is no laughing matter. It can be inconvenient, takes time out of your day or night, and often costs you money.

So hold on to your car keys -- and remember them before you slam all the doors.

--30--{et

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