Direct Line magazine

Tracking devices put under the spotlight

Updated on: 4 February 2021

a birds-eye view of a road network

In terms of car security, a vehicle tracking system is a significant weapon against crime. These electronic devices are professionally installed and will normally have a monthly or annual charge on top of the initial purchase price. Although there will always be a cost consideration, this should be weighed up against the cost and inconvenience of having your car stolen and not being returned. Vehicle tracking systems are among the most effective security systems currently on the market.

Are you receiving me?

There are two main categories of electronic tracking devices; products that use a VHF signal and products that use GPS (Global Positioning System). There are also some hybrid systems that use both.

Tracker is a well-known stolen vehicle recovery system. It uses VHF technology and operates nationwide in partnership with the UK police force. Tracker allows a car to be tracked even if it's hidden in a garage, underground car park or shipping container. Prices vary and you should be sure to factor in the costs of any monthly subscription.

Many vehicle tracking systems use Global Positioning System (GPS) modules, which have the advantage of being able to track a stolen vehicle anywhere in the world, however GPS signals are very weak and can be lost if a vehicle is hidden or the signal deliberately jammed. Communications components, such as cellular or satellite transmitters, are employed to communicate the vehicle’s location to a remote user back at a central monitoring station. Vehicle information is then viewed on electronic maps and the data is relayed to the police.

You are being watched

Many systems are automatically activated if it's sensed that the vehicle has been tampered with and is being started without the key. The tracking device is set off and sends out information that can be picked up by the monitoring station and the police. The theft of car keys has also been taken into consideration with some systems having the ability to detect a problem even if keys are being used, via a ‘driver recognition transponder card’ that identifies the authorised driver.

The majority of sophisticated vehicle tracking systems involve the supplier providing a proactive service. This might mean that if your vehicle is driven at an unusual time or into an unusual area, they will phone you to check that you know where it is. This involves them building up an individual map of your normal usage and monitoring a deviation from this.

A few systems come with a verbal communication feature, which enables connection with the central monitoring station. This would be particularly helpful in the rare, but terrifying, possibility of a car jacking. There's also the opportunity of owning a device that incorporates a ‘remote engine kill’, where the engine is switched off when the speed drops below a certain point. This means the car is safely brought to a stop at traffic lights or a junction and the thief is prevented from re-starting the engine.

To buy or not to buy?

If you’re concerned that the level of security you have on your car is insufficient, then it’s definitely worth exploring your options as far as tracking devices are concerned. A good, conventional car alarm system can still be enhanced by this added safeguard against crime. All in all, it could add up to be a very worthwhile investment.

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