Is leaving your car running while unattended illegal?

Can you get a ticket for leaving your car running while unattended?

When it's this cold outside, many of us start our cars before getting into them to warm them up. But could this action actually be illegal?

Iowa does have a state law written in 1913 and amended in 1975 that says, in Section 321.362 of the Code of Iowa, "It shall be unlawful for the operator of any motor vehicle or person in charge thereof to leave unattended a motor vehicle while any part of the machinery is in motion".

Under the power to police and regulate streets and public places, therefore, a person can be ticketed for leaving an unattended car running in a public place.

Though it is technically illegal, the Wapello County Sheriff's Office said they won't be going around issuing tickets, unless an incident like a theft or accident prompts it.

"The way I read it, I say it's an officer's discretion," said Chief Deputy Don Phillips. "We commonly don't write those tickets this time of year because of the cold weather, unless there's an incident that occurs that maybe would cause us to write it."

Even though Phillips has never remembered a ticket issued for this reason, he urges people not to leave keys inside their cars, or leave the cars running while you're not nearby or watching, because it leaves the vehicle an easy target for thieves.

Click to view more on the statute.