State Police Warn Not to Leave Car Idling

The Maryland State Police want drivers to avoid being the victim of auto theft. There were more than 16,000 vehicles stolen in Maryland in 2011, meaning every 33 minutes someone’s vehicle was stolen. More than 50 percent of the vehicles were unlocked and more than 30 percent had the keys inside them. Investigators estimate that as many as 4,000 of those vehicles stolen were actually running at the time they were stolen.

During the cold weather months, it is not uncommon for residents to leave cars idling. Leaving a vehicle unoccupied with the engine running makes for an easy target for thieves and is illegal in Maryland. Police have scores of cases involving car thieves cruising neighborhoods early in the morning just looking for the telltale plume of exhaust from an unoccupied vehicle. Other thieves loiter around store parking lots watching for the driver who leaves his or her vehicle running just to keep it warm while they go inside. This especially concerns police when it involves parents who leave their children in cars with the engine running. Car thieves don’t always check to see who is in the back seat before stealing the vehicle.

Leaving a vehicle unoccupied with the engine running is illegal in Maryland. Maryland motor vehicle law states that before a person driving a motor vehicle may leave it unattended, he or she must stop the engine, lock the ignition, remove the key, and set the parking brake. The penalty is a fine of $70 and one point.

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