Warming-up your car, legal or illegal?

Local News

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Is warming up your car on a cold winter morning actually illegal?

This is the question motorists want to know the answer to.

Ohio, until recently, classified it as a misdemeanor if you left your car unattended while the engine was turned on. As common sense would have it, the law changed.

Click here for this section of the law at length. Otherwise, here is when and where your car can be left running:

  • A motor vehicle that is parked on residential property;
  • A motor vehicle that is locked, regardless of where it is parked;
  • An emergency vehicle ;
  • A public safety vehicle.

Great, you are all set, right? Nope. Police will tell you there are other concerns.

“There’s a certain element in society who are preying on people who are leaving their cars running,” said Columbus Police Department Community Liaison Officer Anthony Rogers.

The 29-year-veteran has worked on the street and investigated organized crime. He said when it’s cold, thieves want to be warm, too.

“It’s easy to break the window and steal the car right out of your driveway,” Rogers gestured toward the driver’s side of his police cruiser. “A car was just stolen and the helicopter flew over and were looking for a stolen car as we speak.”

Rogers said the car thief was caught moments after the interview concluded.

NBC4 asked an insurance company about what happens if a thief steals your car while it is warming up. Would it be covered by insurance?

Here is what Ron Davies with Safeauto wrote in an email.

“Based on the facts as you presented them, we generally believe that the theft of the car would be covered under the auto insurance policy if coverage had been purchased,” Davies wrote. “We would expect that the insurance company would conduct its assessment based on the facts of loss including evidence of actual theft in making its determination of coverage.”

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To take the scenario of warming up your car from bad to worse, what would happen if your car is stolen and then damages someone’s property or hurts someone?

“In the event of a theft, where the thief then causes 3rd party damages, we generally would not expect the owner of the car to be liable for the subsequent damage/injury of the thief crashing the car into a person or thing. We would anticipate that to be the liability of the thief,” explained Davies. “That does not necessarily mean the insurance company ‘steps in.’ Under liability coverages purchased by the insured, the insurance company is providing coverage when the insured is liable. In this case, we are assuming the theft was a non-permissive use and the insured does not have liability.”

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