Police: Warming up your car is illegal

By: Tim Ciesco Email
By: Tim Ciesco Email

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - With frigid temperatures in the forecast, you can bet many drivers will warm up their cars before getting in them. But what you may not know is that technically, it's illegal.

Colorado Revised Statute 42-4-1206 makes it illegal for a person to leave a vehicle running and unattended -- in other words, if you warm up your car and go back inside, you could be ticketed.

On a cold week like this one, drivers like Victoria Renti say the last place they want to be shivering is in their cars.

"I don't really want to get in my car when it's freezing," says Renti. "And if the windows are fogged up I don't want to sit in it and wait for them to defrost."

So she, like many others, will go outside, turn the car on, then head back inside while they wait for it to warm up.

"Technically the law says if you have your vehicle running, you need to be in it," says Heather Benjamin, spokesperson for the Mesa County Sheriff's Office.

Renti says she had no clue she was breaking the law. But if it means being warm and having a car ready to hit the road, she's okay with that.

"I think that's a little bit ridiculous because it's cold outside," says Renti. "I don't want to sit in my car and start it because I want to be warm when I get into it."

Oddly enough, local law enforcement is okay with that too. They say officers and deputies get to use their discretion when it comes to traffic infractions -- and admit this is one they usually don't enforce.

"The reality here in Western Colorado is when we have weather like this people are warming up their cars so they can drive safely," says Benjamin.

Benjamin says the only times deputies would really enforce this rule is if an unattended car that was running somehow ended up in traffic, either blocking it or causing damage.

Both the Sheriff's Office and Grand Junction Police Department say their biggest concern when it comes to this issue is someone stealing your car.

"In the past , I do know that we've had several cases come about where someone has been the victim of an auto theft having left their vehicle running to warm up," says Grand Junction Police Sergeant David Krouse.

That's why they say if you take steps to make sure that doesn't happen, they're okay with letting you warm up your car. "If you do have to do that, at least lock your doors and be a good neighbor," says Krouse. "Look out for each other."

The penalty for leaving your car unattended and running is a $15 fee and a $10 surcharge.

The Grand Junction Police Department says it's considering getting on board with a statewide anti-theft campaign that centers around this issue. Officials say, however, that their local efforts would likely focus on education rather than enforcement.

In Douglas County, near Denver, both enforcement and education efforts are underway.

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