Texas law says leaving a car running while unattended is illegal

While it might feel nice and toasty, leaving a car running in the morning is not a smart idea. Some people have learned that lesson the hard way after their cars were stolen right out of their driveways.

When people leaving their cars on and unattended, it creates an easy target for criminals and thieves.

The Texas Transportation Code states that it is against the law for an operator to leave a vehicle unattended.

"You cannot leave an unattended vehicle without stopping the engine, locking the ignition, and taking the key from the ignition," said Scott Hill, Administrative Lieutenant for the Abilene Police Department.

Hill mentioned that the main purpose of the law is to prevent auto theft.

"You leave your vehicle unattended and running, that is a perfect recipe for criminals to come up and take your vehicle,” claimed Hill.

“In the mornings when people are trying to warm up their vehicle and they go back inside, they'll look for the exhaust fumes, they'll look for defrosted windows, things like that and they'll go up and start checking to see if that vehicle is unlocked or not.,” said Hill when asked about what thieves looked for.

In Abilene, this law can only be applied to public streets and roadways, but Hill told KTXS that he believes leaving your vehicle unattended could be dangerous no matter where it is located.

Other Texas cities have ordinances that make it illegal to have an unattended car running on private property.

“I would rather have a cold vehicle and have a vehicle, than come out and find a vehicle that is not there,” stated Hill.

If a person's car gets stolen, they should check with their insurance providers, because some providers will not cover a stolen car if the keys were left inside.

Getting caught with an unattended vehicle that is running is a class c misdemeanor. The offender could face a fine of up to $500 dollars.

Scott Hill mentioned that there is one exception to this law. “The only exception to that leaving your vehicle unattended is if you have a remote start and you have to have a key present in the vehicle for it to operate,” said Hill.

“According to the FBI, about 500,000 vehicles are stolen every year and half of those are stolen due to vehicle being unattended,” claimed Hill.

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