Warming Up A Car Unattended Is Against The Law In A Fifth Of The U.S.

Occasionally, we’ll come across some information we didn’t know before regarding driving laws and anti-theft statistics, and today’s epiphany seemed particularly relevant considering the zero to sub-zero temperatures throughout much of the United States. In a new report from Claims Journal, it was revealed that at least nine states throughout the U.S. have laws on the books that prevent motorists from warming up their cars.

Furthermore, in some states, the fines for doing so can be pretty steep — as much as $500. Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, West Virginia, and Wisconsin are all among the states that place laws on the books. Colorado’s fine for what is referred to as “puffing,” a reference to the puffs of exhaust that come from an idling vehicle, is just $100. In the cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, it’s against the law to leave one’s keys in the ignition of a car if the car is unattended, and St. Paul has been known to take the keys to the police station for pickup, CJ notes.

One other consideration that motorists should be aware of is that an idling car or one that has the keys noticeably in the ignition and is unattended can lead to a greater risk of car theft. The National Insurance Crime Bureau claims that it happens a lot more than one would think.

“We all like a warm car with a defrosted windshield, but so do the car thieves,” said NICB President and CEO Joe Wehrle. “Leaving a car running and unlocked in the driveway or parking lot is an open invitation to them to drive off with a vehicle that they normally couldn’t steal. Today’s late model vehicles are very difficult to steal thanks for improved anti-theft technology, but unfortunately many of the cars and trucks that are taken today are left unlocked with the keys inside.”

Out of 22 recent car thefts in Nashville, the NICB notes that 10 of the cars had the keys inside. St. Petersburg, Florida, Mayor Bill Foster also claims this accounted for 60 percent of car thefts in his own city in 2013. And in the last week, two cars in Minnesota were stolen while warming up, CJ reports.


So what can a motorist do to stay safe?

One option is to use a remote car starter that cranks the engine and gets the car heated up without requiring a key to be in the ignition. Clearly, this isn’t an option on many vehicles, but if it is, it would be best to not park in a garage or to remember to open the garage door before starting up. The driver would also want to leave the heater on from the last time that the car was driven to ensure a quicker warm-up period.

A second option for those whose cars aren’t as tech-equipped, is to utilize one set of keys for starting the car before leaving it unattended, then using an extra set of keys to unlock the door when it’s time to go. However, this brings with it certain hazards that make the NICB oppose the idea “because a car that is idling while unattended could attract a thief who can easily break a window to get inside and drive off,” CJ notes.


In Summary

Nobody likes stepping out into sub-zero or freezing temperatures and then sitting inside the car hoping the heater will hurry up, but breaking the law or putting one’s car in jeopardy of theft are not good alternatives. As the temperatures continue to plummet, consider having the talk with your clients. It’s likely they are not aware warming up a car unattended is illegal in as much as 20 percent of the U.S., so it’s probably a conversation worth having. Good luck this winter, and stay warm!

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