Legally Weird - The FindLaw Legal Curiosities Blog

It Can Happen to You: Ticketed for Warming Up Your Car

Believe it or not, many states have laws that prohibit warming up a car the way most cold weather state residents do it. One Michigan man learned a hard lesson this past week. Nick Taylor of Roseville, Michigan was hoping to avoid freezing his butt off while driving when he decided to warm up his car before leaving his house. Like countless other Americans living in cold weather states, Nick started his car, then went back inside his home to finish getting ready. After a few minutes, he discovered that an officer had come by and ticketed his car.

Nick learned that it is illegal in the state of Michigan to leave a car running and unattended, even if you are just trying to warm it up in your own driveway. Many drivers are shocked to learn that the Michigan law against unattended idling is actually not that unusual. While generally these laws are geared towards preventing car thefts, the anti-idling laws also are seen as emissions friendly laws designed to reduce pollution.

What About Remote Car Starts?

While many auto makers are including remote car starts as a standard feature, it may be an illegal feature to use in your state depending on the law. If your car features a remote starter, you may want to check with your local or state laws to confirm that using it doesn't violate any laws. Some states specifically allow drivers to warm their vehicles up using remote starters, or if the doors are locked, however, many of the laws require that idling not last for more than a few minutes.

Here's a list of states that ban warming up, or unattended idling of, your car.

  • Michigan
  • Virginia
  • Maryland
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Pennsylvania
  • Ohio
  • Colorado
  • Texas
  • Wisconsin
  • South Carolina

While these laws may seem annoying or even cruel, at least you can take comfort in knowing that they presumably help to prevent car thefts and help to decrease pollution.

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