Protecting Drivers from Their Own Stupidity or Just Another Silly Motor Vehicle Law?

Written by Gregory Monte.

“During this bitter blast, patrol officers have been out looking for vehicles left running with no one behind the wheel because it’s a vehicle code violation and against state law.  We issue a ticket or a warning to let owners know that this is a crime …”

WFMZ-TV (69News.Com)

I recently wrote two articles about motor vehicle laws in Virginia which I thought were somewhat useless:

A Ticket for Improperly Opening Your Car Door?  Another Silly Virginia Driver Law.

Dumb and Dumber – These two Virginia driving laws are as silly as it gets.

Well, now it is time to turn to my home state of Pennsylvania where I recently discovered the Unattended Motor Vehicle Law (Title 75, Section 3701).  The pertinent part of the statute is excerpted below:

 “No person driving or in charge of a motor vehicle shall permit the vehicle to stand unattended without … stopping the engine …”

This statute clearly implies that Pennsylvania drivers are not allowed to warm up their cars during the cold winter months using a remote starter.  Unless they actually sit in the vehicle during the warm-up process (which obviously defeats the purpose), their “unattended” idling car could be legally ticketed.

This is not just my interpretation of the statute, by the way.  If you go to the PennDOT website, this point is made outright:

“The unattended motor vehicle law is a popular one during the winter months when drivers might want to run their car to warm it up while they wait comfortably inside … leaving it running and unattended is illegal.”

 The Pennsylvania State Police even put out a YouTube video for Law Safety Week 2018 which stresses this exact same point.  It is less than two minutes if you want to watch it for yourself, but here is a direct quote:

“We’re in Pennsylvania, its wintertime, it’s cold, a lot of people have the automatic car starters … If your car is parked on the street that is where we run into an issue.  That is where it is not allowed.”

SIDE NOTE: Don’t you love how the trooper’s hats are blocking the notes that they are reading off of?

Both the PennDOT article and the State Police video do inidcate that this law does not apply to private property, which is a good thing.  However, I don’t see where in the language of Section 3701 that an allowance is made for this.

If you get a ticket for warming up your car in your driveway next winter, I wouldn’t count on a judge accepting a website or YouTube video as evidence.


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