AURORA - A teenager learned a tough lesson about the dangers of puffing.
18-year-old Nick Turner was warming up his car and went inside the house Tuesday morning, only to come outside seconds later to find someone stealing his car.
Turner left his car running with the keys inside and realized he forgot his gym bag.
By the time he went inside and came back out, a thief was backing his car out of his driveway.
"Just crazy," Turner said. "I usually warm up my car 10 minutes before I go to school."
Turner didn't realize his regular routine on cold mornings would make him a target.
"This is my house. This is my neighborhood. To know that somebody was scoping me out is weird," Turner said.
According to Coloradoans Against Auto Theft 40 percent of Coloradoans do what Turner did, leave their cars running with the keys in the ignition.
It's called puffing, a term coined by car thieves who look for puffs of exhaust, as people warm up their empty cars.
"I forgot my backpack so I went back inside. And when I came back out I saw the car going in reverse," Turner said.
The Machebeuf high school senior basketball player tried getting his car back.
"I kind of opened the door up. And then I hopped inside half my body in," Turner said.
The thief dragged Turner down the street until he fell out of the car.
Turner had to go to the hospital to be treated for gashes on his hand, leg, and back.
Aurora Police spokesperson Sgt. Cassidee Carlson says people like Turner often don't realize the dangers of puffing.
"He could have been seriously injured or even died," Carlson said. "There's people that prowl looking for puffer cars because they know it's such an easy steal."
The East Metro Auto Theft Task force is on the puffer patrol all week.
89 people got warnings in Commerce City Tuesday morning.
Wednesday morning in Aurora and Englewood, officers issued 236 tickets, 163 warnings, and recovered 3 stolen cars.
Patrols occur from 5am to 9am.
The East Metro Auto theft task force will be on the puffer patrol in Arapahoe County on Thursday and in the town of Sheridan on Friday.
The losses from 9,300 car thefts in Colorado in 2011 totaled more than $57 million.
Aurora Police are still looking for Turner's '99 silver Lexus GS300 with Colorado plates 513 HAW.
The car has a Machebeuf sticker on lower left rear window.
Turner got a good look at the thief, described as Hispanic, around 20, with a blue beanie.
"Now that I think of it, it was kinda dumb. It's just a car," Turner said.
He hopes his misfortune will teach others to be more careful.
"I thank God for watching over me and staying alive," Turner said.
Police say this is the perfect example why you should not puff your car.
Warming it up with the keys inside can cost you a $100 ticket or, like Turner, you could have your vehicle stolen.
Since 9NEWS first began reporting about puffing Tuesday on 9NEWS Mornings, you've been sending us hundreds of comments and questions on Facebook and Twitter.
Here are the answers to your most common questions:
Can I get a ticket for puffing on my private property?
No, you won't get fined.
Police say puffing in your driveway is legal, but unwise.
Can I get a ticket for puffing if my car is locked?
Yes, you can.
It doesn't matter if the car is locked if the keys are in the ignition.
Is puffing allowed if I have a remote starter?
Cars with remote starters have anti-theft devices to prevent a thief from driving off without the keys.
If my car is stolen while puffing, will my insurance cover it?
In most cases yes, insurers will cover a car theft, even if you make it easy for the thieves.
However, you should call your agent and ask about policy exclusions, which may include puffing.
For more information on how to protect your car, visit the Coloradoans Against Auto Theft web site
(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)