The Dangers of Leaving Your Vehicle Running While Unattended

A motor vehicle is one of the biggest and most important investments a person will make, and as such, proper car maintenance and care is critical for a driver to understand and implement. It is also important for drivers to understand the laws concerning what they may do with their cars – in both public and private spaces.

Most problems related to car maintenance and repair can be handled with simple, quick fixes at home or through visits to the auto mechanic. However, seeing a professional can be pricey, especially if the problem involves serious engine trouble, and there are everyday maintenance and safety practices that drivers can perform to ensure that their cars and any personal belongings in those cars remain in good condition and safe.

Drivers everywhere develop habits of leaving their vehicles running idly without anyone in or around the car, perhaps while they run into the store quickly, or to warm up the inside of the vehicle during winter months. Empty cars should always be fully parked and turned off, and failing to do so can lead to a number of dangers for both the driver and his or her vehicle. Read more below to find out about possible incidents that can come from leaving vehicles running while unattended.

Problems Drivers Can Face When Leaving an Unattended Vehicle Running

The most obvious danger concerning leaving an empty car running, keys in ignition, is the clear risk of theft. Cars that are already running with keys inside often insinuate that the doors are unlocked, and provide an easy target for auto theft, especially if the car is empty of any passengers. Thieves especially look for unlocked cars in early mornings, when cars may be warming up without supervision. More risks than simply losing a car come with auto theft, however. Oftentimes, if a car is stolen and the criminal is involved in a crash, the burden of insurance and payment still comes to the owner of the vehicle, even if he or she was not actually operating the vehicle or giving someone else permission to operate it. If the car was used in the commission of a crime, the owner could also face charges.

Leaving cars idle also wastes gas, and operating a car on a low tank can lead to other problems, including wearing out the fuel pump, possible pollution of the engine, and being stranded when the car eventually empties. With rising fuel prices, this is worth considering.

Besides the clear risk of theft, it is also illegal to leave an unmanned car running in many states. While legal in the state of Georgia, nearby states including South Carolina and West Virginia mandate that unmanned cars remain off. Other states allow cars to be left idle when on private property, or when the car is activated with a button rather than a key.

Leaving a car unattended can be dangerous if the car is on any type of incline. If the vehicle is not properly secured or encounters a problem with its gearshift, it can roll forward or backward on its own, and possibly cause an accident or property damage. An incident such as this could cause significant legal recourse and punishment for a driver, not to mention harsh spikes in premiums for auto insurance.

This is especially relevant during the winter months, when roads and driveways can become icy and more slippery. Drivers should be sure that their cars are put into proper gear and are fully secured in place before leaving the vehicles, especially if the engines will be left running. For those driving in colder climates, sometimes cars can roll without the gearshift being involved, so it is important to be sure that cars are equipped with the proper tools to withstand snow and icy roads.

Dangers of Car Emissions When Leaving an Unattended Vehicle Running

Dangers exist outside of blatant car or property damage when it comes to leaving an idle car running. Besides theft, car emissions are a huge problem concerning idle vehicles that affect much more than the driver, singularly. Vehicle emissions cause greater problems for the environment, and those who inhabit it.

Car emissions are one of the most harmful sources of modern pollution. Carbon dioxide emitted from cars is often considered a leading cause of global warming. Studies show that greenhouse gasses emitted from models of cars and trucks are the source of at least 20 percent of global warming pollution within the United States. Global warming and pollution lead to a myriad of health problems for humans in affected areas.

Dangers are found especially if a car is left idling in an enclosed space, for example, a close-door

garage. While running, cars generate carbon dioxide, along with other harmful gases. When in an enclosed space without any sort of air flow, these gases can lead to deadly poisoning for anyone who enters that confined space for a significant amount of time. Emissions from a car’s exhaust can lead to other problems with the lungs and respiratory systems, as well as elevating problems associated with asthma and allergies.