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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Eye On Boise

Of ‘Rules of the Road,’ warming up a frozen vehicle, and state laws…

Rep. Steven Harris, R-Meridian, introduced legislation today to remove a little-known restriction from Idaho law, dating back to 1988, that he suggested appears to make it illegal to remotely start your car to warm it up. The provision, contained in the section of state law dealing with “Rules of the Road,” currently prohibits a driver from allowing a vehicle “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.”

Harris, who pitched his bill to the House Transportation Committee this morning, got an affirmative vote to introduce it, clearing the way for a full hearing. “The wording of the Unattended Motor Vehicle code written in years past prohibits a driver, perhaps unintentionally, from remotely starting a vehicle,” Harris wrote in the measure’s Statement of Purpose. “The wording also appears to prohibit a driver from starting a vehicle ahead of time to warm up the interior in cold weather.” His bill, he wrote, “would allow such activities.”

He’d strike the part about stopping the engine and removing the key, and add instead that a driver should lock the vehicle if it’s running.

But before jumping to the conclusion that anyone who’s warmed up their car during this year’s frigid winter is an out-and-out scofflaw, it’s worth noting that the “Rules of the Road” code section states at its outset that it applies “exclusively to the operation of vehicles upon highways.”

Just to be sure, Harris’ bill adds a line to the law, saying, “The provisions of this section do not apply to motor vehicles on private property.”

Incidentally, the “Rules of the Road” section of Idaho state law also prohibits coasting when traveling upon a downgrade; requires windshields to be cleared of ice or other obstructions; and requires that when a vehicle “traveling slower than the normal speed of traffic” is holding up three other vehicles, it must pull out at the next safe turnout “in order to permit the following vehicles to pass.” So that’s not just a sign posted for advice on Bogus Basin Road; it’s a state law…

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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