As we deal with temperatures in the 20s on the SouthCoast, here's a warning about warming up your car. Did you know that unnecessary idling of your vehicle is against the law?

We've all done it. It's a bitterly cold morning, so you run outside to your car, start it up, and warm up the interior so that you don't freeze when you get inside.n More common still are the car starters which are now pretty standard for most new cars sold in the past 10 years or so.

Guess what, buttercup? Idling that car too long is illegal. According to Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 90, Section 16a, you would be in violation of unnecessary operation of a motor vehicle. Your fine: $100 for your first offense, and $500 for each additional offense.

The law, which has actually been on the Massachusetts books for quite some time, is all about the environment.

The Commonwealth has placed a ban on unnecessary idling to cut down on emissions which pollute the air.

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has issued some examples of unnecessary idling that can cause you to get fined:

  • Sitting in your car in a parking lot with the engine on during mild or cool weather is unnecessary. The interior of your car will stay warm for five to 10 minutes on all but the coldest days.
  • Leaving the vehicle running while unattended to let the heater warm it or the air conditioner cool it for extended periods is unnecessary idling (it is also in violation of motor vehicle law). Five minutes should be the maximum amount of time unless weather conditions are extreme, and the engine should not be left running while the vehicle is unattended for any length of time.
  • Operating devices not related to transporting passengers or goods. Letting the engine run for an hour or more to play a movie or to charge a cell phone causes unnecessary pollution, is a nuisance for others nearby and puts excessive wear and tear on the engine.

It is, however, permissible to have your car running while you are scraping and/or defrosting your windshield. There are a few other specific examples listed here.

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