Every 44 seconds a motor vehicle is stolen in the United States according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Agency trend data shows that July and August are the worst months for vehicle thefts.

And, no state has more auto thefts than California. According to the Los Angeles Times, California cities lead the list of the nation’s hot spots for auto theft.

Eight of the top 10 metropolitan areas for car theft are in California, with Modesto ranking as the worst in the nation, according to an analysis of 2012 FBI crime data by the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Fresno was the second worst nationally, followed by Bakersfield and then Stockton. Yakima, Wash., was fifth. Spokane, another Washington city, was the only other city not in California to break into the top 10 list, ranking ninth.

“California has always been the state for the most auto thefts,” said Frank Scafidi, spokesman for the insurance industry trade group. “There is no competitor even close.”

Scafidi said the state’s dubious leadership in car theft probably results from the fact that it has more cars than other states and that because the weather is good, the cars last longer.

There’s also numerous ports and a lot of drug crime, especially in the Central Valley, that correlates with car theft and other property crime, he said.

NHTSA says that if consumers follow a few simple steps, they can help avoid thefts and increase the chance that vehicles are recovered.

More than 40 percent of motor vehicle theft incidents involve mistakes by drivers. To help protect your vehicle and personal belongings from being stolen, the agency is offering the following advice as part of National Vehicle Theft Prevention Month:
?Always take your key, don't leave it in or on your vehicle.
?Always close and lock all windows and doors when you park.
?Park in well-lit areas.
?Always keep your vehicle in your garage, if possible.
?Never, ever leave valuables in your vehicle, especially where they can be seen.
?Never, ever leave the area while your vehicle is running.
?Protect your vehicle with an antitheft/immobilizer device.

NHTSA data also show that only 52 percent of stolen vehicles are recovered. Below are some steps you should take if your vehicle has been stolen:
?Contact the police immediately to file a stolen vehicle report. (You may also be asked to provide the following information: License plate number, make, model and color of car, VIN number and any identifying characteristics).
?Contact your insurance company as soon as possible to file a claim within 24 hours of when you discovered your vehicle was stolen.
?If you find your vehicle before authorities do, contact the police and your insurance company immediately.