A quarter of Britain's motorists are continuing to give thieves the easiest of opportunities to steal their cars, after admitting to leaving their vehicles running unattended while defrosting them.

The HiQ fast fit network questioned more than 200 motorists about the ways they are tackling the freezing winter weather in the mornings, with 25 per cent revealing that they turn the ignition and apply the heaters, before disappearing out of view while their cars warm up.

The worrying statistic arrives on the back of numerous warnings over the Christmas and New Year period from police forces and automotive advisory groups, suggesting that the message is still not being heeded.

HiQ, with 150 fast fit centres across the UK, warn that car thieves will be keeping an eye out for any vehicle left unattended and won't hesitate to jump in and drive off with it when the opportunity presents itself.

HiQ's fast fit manager Stuart Carr said: "We asked motorists their preferred way of defrosting their cars.

"While 43 per cent of drivers said they use a scraper and a further 18 per cent use a de-icer spray, we were concerned that 25 per cent admitted to leaving the keys in the ignition.

"While the sub zero temperatures may have abated briefly in any areas, January and February are historically the coldest months of the year, so this issue is still very much relevant.

"Our advice is to allow a little extra time on frosty mornings and to stay with your car if you need to run the engine for a while to warm it up.

"Car theft is inconvenient at any time but motorists should also be aware that many insurance companies will not pay out if the vehicle has been left running with the keys in the ignition."

Selected HiQ fast fit centres are continuing to offer free winter driving checks to motorists, which include tyre, battery, windscreen, engine and exhaust checks.

Stuart concluded: "The winter weather has taken its toll on motorists and their cars for some time now and as the fast fit network of trust, HiQ is keen to provide as much help and support wherever possible."

HiQ fast fit manager Stuart Carr