Ohioans could get cited for warming up their car

This vehicle was running with no one inside in downtown Van Wert.
This vehicle was running with no one inside in downtown Van Wert.

Anyone in Ohio who lets their car warm up while they aren’t in it could be breaking the law.

Ohio Revised Code 4511.661 Unattended motor vehicles states:

“(A) 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 any grade, turning the front wheels to the curb or side of the highway.”

The law went into effect January 1, 2004. Nearly everyone NewsChannel 15 talked to Friday, including one police officer, didn’t know the law existed. Attorney and assistant prosecutor Martin Burchfield said while the law doesn’t apply to private property, like driveways, if a car is left running without anyone inside in some parking lots or on a street, the driver is technically violating the law. It’s a misdemeanor offense with fines up to $150.

“It opens them up to having a citation written,” he said. “[But], I don’t think there’s a problem. I don’t think people should leave their car unattended in public streets, but I would be surprised if anyone got a ticket. But it shouldn’t be done. It’s not safe.”

In about an hour, NewsChannel 15 saw three vehicles running with no one inside on the downtown Van Wert streets. But, Burchfield and several law enforcement agencies said they aren’t aware of anyone ever getting a ticket for it.

“We have a lot of other things we have to do every day, so it’s not something we’re out looking for,” Tom Riggenbach, the Van Wert County sheriff, said. 

Rep. Tony Berkley (R-District 82, OH) said the intention of the law is mostly likely for safety. Sgt. Jonathon Gray with the Ohio Highway Patrol agreed.

“Ensuring vehicles don’t roll into traffic if it’s on a street with grade,” Gray said.

Gray said while you probably won’t be cited for warming up your car in front of your house, if something happens, like the car’s stolen or rolls into traffic,  then the unattended vehicle statute could come into play.

Berkley said while the law technically could be applied against its intention, it doesn’t need to be modified.

“There’s enough to do that [lawmakers] don’t go looking for problems to solve unless there’s been somebody impacted by the legislation that was unintended,” he said.

When people do warm up their cars, Gray said there are a few things they should to do stay safe.

“Set parking brake, make sure it’s locked so someone can’t take their car or children in vehicle won’t be able to move that car or it won’t roll into oncoming traffic,” he said. 

Indiana does not have a similar unattended vehicle law.

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