Cold Shock: Warming up your car illegal!


WASHINGTON – The recent nationwide cold snap isn’t just making Americans uncomfortable. It’s turning some into lawbreakers.

The shocking news of state and local regulations that make it illegal to warm up your frozen car is hitting home in Texas, Maryland, Ohio, West Virginia, Colorado, Wisconsin, South Carolina – even some cities in Minnesota.

Who knew it could be illegal to run back inside while your car is warming up in winter – in a practice sometimes called “puffing”?

Many Americans are getting first-hand experience this brutal winter with the latest manifestation of what some call the “Nanny State.”

The reason for such laws is usually linked with the increased threat of vehicles being stolen – and some of them carry hefty fines for enticing car thieves to commit their crimes. The laws are a little fuzzy on the newer technology of “auto-start” vehicles specifically designed for the comfort of their drivers and passengers.

  • In 2004, the state of Ohio enacted a law that states, “No person driving or in charge of a motor vehicle shall permit it to stand unattended without first stopping the engine, locking the ignition, removing the key from the ignition. …” The fine in Ohio is $150.
  • A similar law in West Virginia puts the first-offense fine at $100 and the second at $500.
  • You might be surprised to learn that even Texas has a state law against “puffing.” The “puffing” is the tell-tale exhaust that comes out the back of the car on cold mornings. Leaving a vehicle unattended with the keys still in the ignition – whether it’s running or not – is a violation of the Texas Transportation Code. It’s a Class C misdemeanor with a fine of up to $500.
  • In Madison, Wisc., it’s illegal to leave your car on a public street with the keys in the ignition – warming up or not.
  • Even in Colorado, famous for its skiing, it’s illegal statewide to warm up your car while you’re not in it. Police in the state are actually cracking down on the practice to reduce the number of stolen vehicles. They are actively patrolling neighborhoods looking for homeowners trying to get to work in the morning without freezing.
  • South Carolinians are unaccustomed to the kind of frigid cold temperatures much of the country has been experiencing over the last week. Police there have been issuing warnings to motorists for “puffing” offenses.

One county in Maryland is reporting an increase in vehicle thefts that can be directly attributed to the cold weather.

Prince George’s County police reported that at least four vehicles were stolen in one day, all of them briefly unattended while owners remained indoors while the cars heated up. In most cases, the cars were stolen early in the morning, likely when the car owners were preparing to go to work.

“It’s cold outside, but whatever you do, don’t leave your car unattended,” said Officer Harry Bond, a spokesman for Prince George’s County police, to the Washington Post. “It only takes a few seconds for a thief to take your belongings inside the car or take your vehicle.”

Police have been ticketing unattended vehicles with fines of nearly $70.

Even the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is getting into the war on “puffing.” It’s not thefts that bother the EPA. It’s global warming. The EPA hasn’t started issuing fines yet. But the agency is issuing warnings about how the practice hurts fuel economy and the environment.

The EPA issued a report that claims “[m]odern vehicles need little warm-up. Idling for long periods in cold weather can actually cause excessive engine wear.”

Though Minnesota has no statewide laws against “puffing,” the city of Minneapolis does. Police there won’t fine you, however. They just take keys to the police station.

The city of Toronto bans warming up cars for more than three minutes altogether, with or without a driver inside.

General Motors, in a press release encouraging remote starters, recently said that warming up a car actually reduces pollutants, “because the catalyst that traps the unburned hydrocarbons only activates once the engine is warm.”

For the record, no anti-”puffing” laws exist in Alaska where motorists frequently leave their cars running while they visit stores. Some even leave them running while they work.

See the report from Colorado:

And from Ohio:


8 thoughts on “Cold Shock: Warming up your car illegal!

  1. There are a lot of things people can still do in Alaska. Especially compared to places like NY and CA. I’ll let you hazard a guess as to why that is.

  2. Yes, it’s all about protecting your vehicle from being stolen. Who do these gestapos think they’re fooling?!? This is just another money making scheme coupled with the loss of even more personal freedom and liberty. I guess the only way around this “law” is to keep the doors locked and use a remote starter….until they outlaw those too.

  3. Well San Francisco has a new law:

    You may not store anything other than your car in your garage. No tools, no bicycles no chemicals. Just your car and if you don’t own one well then its empty period. Are you serious?


  4. My Fellow Americans:

    Wecome to the Pyschotic-World of these Cummunist bags of puke, in your face control of EVERYTHING!

    Next up:

    The Dresser Draw Organization Act –

    You can only keep socks in your sock draw, shirts in your shirt draw, and pants in your pants draw.

    Failure to do so:

    First time offense: $250

    Second time offense: $3,000 + 20 community service

    Third time offense: $10,000 + 6 months jail time + counsuling for ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder),…. medication,.. and loss of 2nd Amendment Rights (due to the “medications”….)

    Sounds ridiculous?

    No more ridiculous than any of the 40,000 or so laws that came into effect on January 1 of this year.

    JD – US Marines – Its time people,… its time to rid this country of this perfidious disease called “progressives, socialists” or any other label you want to call these communists,… before they exterminate us.

  5. This is all being pushed thru by mandate from the epa……….you know…… that same agency that turned off all the radiation monitoring machines just after the fuk-us-all-shima nuclear metldown………….. you know……….the same agency that raised safe allowable limits of radiation exposure………you know………the same agency that wont test imported food or even domestic food for radiation contamination etc etc etc. bloviating pontificating bafoons. time to completely ignore these fools. and if they show up to enforce their fascist agenda, then give them their much needed lead(led) vaccination, with your ruger or smith and wesson vaccinator!

  6. Blah, Blah, Blah. The more things change, the more they stay the same. During a very hot day and my
    dog was a passenger, I would leave the car running
    with air conditioner running with the car locked
    while I dashed into a store.

  7. BAHAHAAHAHAAHA!!! A $500 class C Misdeamoner for leaving your car unattended. That’s the same charge I got from the Round Rock, TX Police with their “Interfering with a public servant” bullshit.

    This is nothing more than a revenue generator for the local police.

    These assholes never lived in Buffalo, NY or some Northern state, where warming up your car is a winter way of life, have they? I’ve been warming up my car in the winter since I started driving and my parents before me have been doing that and my parents parents have been doing that. NO ONE in the city has EVER gotten such an absurd ticket by doing that. This is so ridiculous, it’s not even funny.

    I guess this is their “penal code of the month” crackdown, where every month they play the “penal code” lottery and spin the wheel to see what penal code they can enforce for this month. Another law that was probably secretly made 20 years ago, but never got enforced until now when they say they are cash strapped.

    I’m sure this will help Tyler to get their DHS tank that they want now, so they can keep up with the Jones’ in regards to police precincts. I’m sure they know it’s “overkill” but will say, “it’s what we need”.

    See this article:

    ““I agree to a certain extent it’s overkill, but for the cost, for $2,000, yes, it’s what we need,” said Holmes, of Fort Pierce police.”

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