For the most part, Idahoans love when the temperatures start to drop. It means that our favorite winter activities like skiing, snowboarding, tubing and even snowshoeing are right around the corner.
But you know what days those cold temperatures suck? Pretty much every weekday when we have to make that commute to drop kids off at school or get to the office. Depending on how far away your destination is from your home, your vehicle might not be anywhere close to toasty warm by the time you arrive there. It's bad enough that you're up early and having to "adult" before the caffeine kicks in. A freezing cold car just adds injury to insult.
That's why you may be tempted to run outside and start your vehicle so that it is warm by the time you finish breakfast. Pre-heating your vehicle seems harmless, right? Well, in many states it's actually illegal if your car is parked on a public street. Is Idaho one of them?
The short answer is "no." The long answer is "no, but we were for 29 years." From 1988-2017, Idaho's code regarding unattended running vehicles read:
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 standing upon any grade, turning the front wheels to the curb or side of the highway.
Then in 2017, the State legislature amended section 49-602 to read:
No person driving or in charge of a motor vehicle shall permit it to stand unattended without first locking the vehicle if the engine is running, effectively setting the parking brake and, when standing upon any grade, turning the front wheels to the curb or side of the highway. The provisions of this section do not apply to motor vehicles on private property.
In the statement of purpose for this bill, the House specifically said the goal of this bill was to allow drivers to warm up the interior of their vehicle in cold weather. It was signed into law by Governor Otter on March 20, 2017.
We think this was awfully kind of them to do! Do you know who else probably REALLY liked the amendment? Locksmiths, because it's REALLY easy to accidentally lock your keys in the car this way.
Now, keep in mind some municipalities have their own rules when it comes to idling vehicles. In Ketchum, it's illegal in most cases to leave your vehicle running and idle for more than three minutes. You may do so if it's essential to clear your windshield of frost, but not if it's simply warming up the car for the comfort of you and your passengers.