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Is It Illegal to Leave Your Vehicle Running in Ohio?

January 11, 2021

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Winters can be brutal in Ohio, especially if you park outdoors. Everyone who lives here knows the hassle of waking up bright and early for school or work, only to find their vehicle encased in ice. And once you thaw out your door handle, you still have to deal with all the windows. 

To avoid sitting in an icy vehicle while waiting for the heat and defroster to come on, many Ohioans opt to leave their vehicles running in their driveways or office parking lots while they wait comfortably indoors. But an unusual Ohio law states that in some circumstances, leaving your vehicle running while unattended is actually illegal!

What Is the Origin of This Law?

The law was passed in 2004, and it’s designed to combat car thefts. That’s because opportunistic thieves are known to spring into action when they see unattended running vehicles. After all, stealing one is as easy as hopping into the driver’s seat, putting the vehicle in drive, and accelerating away from the scene.

To fully comply with the law, if drivers are leaving their vehicle unattended, they must:

  • Stop their engines
  • Lock their ignitions
  • Remove their keys from their ignitions
  • Set their parking brakes
  • Turn their front wheels towards the curb or side of the highway when parked on a grade

The Law Doesn’t Apply Everywhere or in All Situations

Thankfully, the law was revised in June 2018 to allow vehicle owners to leave them running unattended if they do so on residential property. That means that homeowners are still in the clear to enjoy their coffee while watching their windows defrost from the warmth of their kitchens, as long as their vehicles are parked in a garage or driveway rather than on the street in front of their homes.

In addition, people with remote-start vehicles are also not in any danger of violating the law. That’s because the law now states that locked vehicles can be left running unattended anywhere, even in public. So, a quick button press on your remote while you finish breakfast can mean a toasty, defrosted vehicle waiting when you step outside.

Unfortunately, that means people who utilize street parking and don’t have remote-start engines are the only ones still left out in the cold. Because those vehicles are the most at risk of being stolen, their owners are still subject to the law of not leaving them running while unattended.

What Are the Punishments for Breaking the Law?

Being caught with an unlocked, unattended running vehicle on public property can put violators at risk of a misdemeanor citation. According to a Fox 19 report, Cincinnati police say that the law is rarely enforced.

However, if you’re at risk of getting ticketed, you’re also probably at risk of getting your vehicle stolen—especially when you consider that Ohio is ranked 4th for most stolen vehicles when they are unlocked, running, and unattended.

Whatever You Do, Be Sure to Clear ALL Ice and Snow from Your Vehicle

Whether you’re one of the lucky ones who can safely defrost their vehicles indoors, or you have to suffer in the driver’s seat on frigid mornings, one thing is certain: driving with ice and snow anywhere on your vehicle can be dangerous to you and other drivers.

It can be tempting to scrape a “porthole” in your windshield that gives you just enough visibility to drive, but you need your entire windshield and all of your windows fully cleared of ice to drive safely. You should be able to see not only the space in front of you, but any other vehicles or pedestrians approaching from the sides.

Additionally, if you hit the road with a mountain of ice and snow on your vehicle’s roof, it could melt and slide off in one giant chunk, potentially hitting another vehicle at high speed and causing serious injuries and damage.

We’re Ohio’s Car Accident Lawyers in All Types of Weather

Whether you were hurt in a crash during winter, spring, summer, or fall, you can count on the Ohio auto accident attorneys at Nurenberg, Paris, Heller & McCarthy to fight for your rights to full compensation. Contact us today for a free consultation. We have more than 90 years of experience working for victims like you, and we know what it takes to win.


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