Ohio law leaves motorists in the cold

(Photo: Ian Britton / Flickr)(Photo: Ian Britton / Flickr)

When the temperature outside is in the single digits or subzero, I like to start my car and wait a few minutes for it to get warm and toasty before I get in to drive to my destination.

However, I just found out I may be left out in the cold with my plans.

According to the Ohio Revised Code 4511.661 for “Unattended motor vehicles,” it’s illegal to do so. Anyone who leaves a vehicle running unattended – even just to warm it up – is subject to a $150 fine and can be charged with a fourth-degree misdemeanor. If you’re caught twice within a year, the misdemeanor is moved up to a third-degree misdemeanor.

The law doesn’t specifically exclude private property from the statute, which means you might have to pay up with a fine for leaving a car running even in your own driveway.

“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, effectively setting the parking brake and, when the motor vehicle is standing upon grade, turning the front wheels to the curb or side of the highway,” the Ohio Revised Code states.

According to a Cleveland Scene magazine report on this Ohio statute, the Ohio Insurance Institute suggests the law may have been instituted to deter car theft, though the report notes that environmental issues may also be a concern.

There may be a workaround. The statute’s wording is unclear as to vehicles that have been started with remote start devices would be exempt from the fine and legal charges since the vehicle’s engine is started without a key.

By the way, this law has been effective since Jan. 1, 2004 – almost a decade – and it’s the first I’ve heard of it.  The law remains in effect until 2017.

That means a little more than three years to go before Ohioans can get into a warm car in the winter without risking a fine.

I understand the environmental ramifications and certainly don’t want to encourage car theft, but I also don’t want my poor children to be freezing as I take them to school or the store. For that matter, I don’t want my own rear-end to be freezing!