Motorists face fines for unattended, running vehicles

Bel Air, MD - Few people in Maryland realize that warming up their car in the winter could result in a traffic ticket.

But in Maryland, Washington, D.C., Michigan and Virginia, leaving a vehicle running while unattended is actually illegal, and the practice could result in an unexpected traffic ticket. One man in Michigan learned this lesson the hard way after warming up his car in his own driveway.

“Every person warms up their car,” said Nick Taylor. “We live in Michigan!”

Nonetheless, Taylor came out to his car one cold Tuesday morning to find a ticket on his windshield. He is now required to pay a $128 fine.

In Washington, DC, the fine is even higher. First-time violators could be subject to a fine of up to $1,000. Here, vehicles powered by diesel engines are prohibited from sitting idle for more than three minutes at a time. This holds true for both classes of diesel engine -- two-stroke and four-stroke. The only exception is if the temperature outside is below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, in which case vehicles may be idle for up to five minutes.

In Virginia, commercial vehicles may not idle for any more than three minutes while in a commercial or residential urban area; however, tour buses and vehicles with diesel engines may be allowed to sit for up to 10 minutes.

According to law enforcement, leaving a car unattended and running creates a prime target for thieves. The National Insurance Crime Bureau reported that one out of every eight vehicles stolen last year actually had the keys inside.

“This is purely a public safety issue,” said Police Chief James Berlin of Roseville, Michigan. “You see it all the time, people hop in a running car and steal them. Something bad happens when that occurs.”

On average, people in the U.S. drive 29.2 miles per day, making two trips with an average duration of about 46 minutes. This, of course, doesn’t change just because the weather is cold. People still need to get from point A to point B, and waiting for a car to warm up can take some time.

If you do need to warm up your car, make sure the doors are locked and you are sitting inside of it in order to avoid a ticket, or worse, grand theft auto.

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