Idle threat: Empty cars left running could mean tickets

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This week there was snow, there was wind, there were school cancellations, and now there will be bitter cold.

It's the time of year when we dress up in layers, find our warmest coats, don gloves and boots, and when "hat hair" comes back in-style.

The calendar says December, so there's no point in denying what we each already know, winter is back in Minnesota.

Who hasn't run out to their car before their shower in the morning to warm up the vehicle for the commute to work? Most of us probably have done that already this week, maybe even this morning.

Well, we may want to rethink that last one. Did you know in Minneapolis it is illegal to let your vehicle idle for more than 3 minutes if the temperature is above zero? Even if you knew, do you abide by the law, asks WCCO.

For those of us at the start of the winter dealing with cold fingers and toes that law may seem a little silly right now. But the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency says there are a few things to consider.

The MPCA says that car exhaust isn't good for anyone's lungs, but especially for children whose lungs are still developing. That will give you something to think about while you are waiting in lines to pick up the kids from school or when you let the car run while you drop them off at daycare.

Additionally the MPCA says that exhaust from idling vehicles contains more pollutants than moving vehicles.

In addition to the environmental benefits there are other reasons not to allow your vehicle to idle unattended. Minneapolis police said last January they averaged about a car theft a day when the weather turned cold, according to a KSTP report.

Around the Twin Cities the laws vary by city. For example in Bloomington you can idle your car as long as you like anywhere as long as it's locked. Edina allows you to idle the vehicle on private property, but if you are on a city street, you cannot leave your car running with keys in the ignition. It's the same in St. Paul, no idling with keys in the ignition on public property, but if police catch you, they can take your key out and keep it at the station until you come to pick it up.

The Twin Cities aren't alone, several major cities around the country, including New York have laws that restrict vehicle idling. Although many of those areas have trouble consistently enforcing the law.

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