Idling your car too long in Ohio could put a dent in your wallet and even land you in jail, at least if one state lawmaker has his way.
House Bill 458 would place major restrictions on vehicle idling, even on private property, according to Watchdog.org. Although keeping a car’s engine running is a common way to stay warm in frigid winters, the bill would set strict time limits: no idling for more than five minutes if the temperature is above 20 degrees Fahrenheit, and no more than 10 minutes if the temperature is lower.
“It was a constituent with medical sensitivities that brought it to my attention,” State Rep. Mike Foley, D-Cleveland, the man behind the bill, told the website. “She lives in an area where idling diesel trucks are a problem, especially with her health concerns.”
Going over the allotted time brings a fine of up to $150 plus court costs. Repeated violations heat up the punishment to a maximum fine of $250 and up to 30 days in jail.
Foley determined the five and 10-minute numbers by looking at legislation previously drafted and averaging it with what municipalities have proposed, Watchdog reported.
Idling a car in Ohio has been illegal since 2004, but there were no real teeth in the law. In other parts of the country, it’s also illegal. In Salt Lake City, it is illegal to leave your car idling for more than two minutes. In Chicago, it’s illegal to idle your car for any period of time if you’re not in it. Idling of cars also is illegal in New York City.
Dave Dimmer of Toledo wondered how the law would be enforced.
“Would a cop have to sit in his idling police car to time you to see if you’re idling your car too long?” he asked while idling his car to help get ice off his windshield. “Maybe we need part-time legislators in Ohio so they don’t have time to create such petty laws.”
Ironically, the bill’s exceptions may mean nobody would be found in violation. According to Watchdog, those exceptions include idling in traffic, idling during mechanical repairs or “personal health or safety reason, such as to maintain the ability of the operator to see outside the motor vehicle or to maintain an acceptable interior temperature.”
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“Isn’t that why you idle a car in the first place?” Dimmer asked regarding the last exception.
Foley told Watchdog he is open to adjusting the bill for things like making exceptions for emergency vehicles or perhaps narrowing it to commercial vehicles and diesel engines.
Even though he doubts the bill will actually go anywhere, Foley hopes his actions will bring the issue to the public’s attention.
“It’s a legitimate question to ask if state government should be involved,” he said. “It affects more than just one constituent. As legislators, we deal with many things — it’s one of the fascinating aspects of the job. I definitely believe it is within the purview of the legislature to take up an issue and raise it at the state level. Hopefully, we’ll have good discussions about it and raise awareness about the problem.”