In a conversation that was started this morning with a story about warming up vehicles before driving them in this excessively cold weather, we pointed out that the City of Duluth has an ordinance on the books that says it is illegal to have an unattended vehicle running. This, of course, had a lot of you curious if that included the usage of remote car starters. We contacted the Duluth Police, and here's what we found out.

Ron Tinsley, Public Information Officer for the Duluth Police Department, told us that the ordinance disallows any unoccupied running motor vehicle unless it is a truck or commercial vehicle engaging in loading or unloading. Based on this alone, it would be easy to infer that car starters are not allowed under the ordinance.

Reading more deeply into the ordinance, however, it does make mention of the ignition being locked and keys not being in the vehicle as terms of a vehicle being safely parked according to the definition spelled out. Tinsley explained that the ordinance was written before the introduction of remote car starters to the public. With built in car starter safety measures such as engine shut-off when the brake is depressed, they are perfectly legal and are a recommended alternative to allowing your vehicle to run unattended with keys inside.

For individuals without an automatic car starter, Tinsley reminds the public that they need to be smart while warming up vehicles, as there are indeed people looking to take advantage of unattended running vehicles. Even a short period away from your running vehicle could result in a theft. If you leave your keys in the vehicle, you do leave yourself open to citation from the police, and your insurance company may not look favorably on the fact you left your keys in the vehicle if it is stolen.

The full ordinance for the City of Duluth can be found below.


Sec. 33-91

No person shall leave a motor vehicle, except a truck engaged in loading or unloading, unattended on any street, alley, used car lot or unattended parking lot without first stopping the engine, locking the ignition, and removing all ignition keys from the vehicle; provided, however, that any violation of these provisions shall not mitigate the stealing of such motor vehicle, nor shall such violation be used to effect the recovery in any civil action for theft of such motor vehicle, or the insurance thereon, or have any other bearing in any civil action.

Whenever any police officer of the city shall find any such motor vehicle standing in violation of the foregoing provisions, such police officer is authorized and directed to remove therefrom the keys left therein and deliver the same to the officer in charge of the police station.