In some states, it is against the law to idle your vehicle–Maryland, and Washington D.C., included. Idling includes warming the vehicle up in cold weather. For many who are accustomed to warming up their cars before setting out in cold weather, this takes more than a little getting used to–and presents certain problems.
I have traditionally been a person who has always warmed up my car in cold weather–not because I was concerned with the efficient operation of my engine, but because of the physical discomfort–even pain–caused by extremely cold outdoor temperatures during the winter. This has especially been an issue when it comes to my son. (No one wants to take their small child, youth, or elderly friend or relative into a freezing cold vehicle.) So I would warm up my vehicle for the safety and comfort of my son.
The reason for some states making a law forbidding allowing vehicles to idle unattended are not entirely clear, although there are several possibilities. Such a law would benefit the follow special interests:
1. vehicle insurance companies, who wouldn’t be required to pay out on vehicle thefts if the vehicles were left on and with the keys in the ignition
2. environmental groups, because vehicle fuel would not be “wasted” in vehicles left running to warm up–and the consequential air pollution
3. groups concerned about public welfare, because unattended running vehicles could be a source of accidents if the vehicles become accidentally mobile with no one at the helm
Although these concerns are all duly noted, they fail to address the fact that most car owners WANT to be able to heat their cars up in cold weather so they won’t freeze their took-asses off during the drive to take the kids to school, to work, to the store, etc. And, most people DON’T WANT to get their vehicles stolen, hurt the environment, or cause accidents. They just want themselves and their children to not freeze!
This situation cries out with opportunities for vehicle manufacturers to provide safe, legal alternatives for consumers wanting to heat up vehicle interiors prior to driving. Perhaps something like a super-fast, efficient heater that only takes a minute or so to heat the vehicle cabin to a comfortable temperature would be a good option. And then there’s the after-market opportunities for devices that could serve a similar purpose.
Keeping kids (and adults) warm until the car heats up:
Until vehicle producers provide consumers with alternatives, there are a several options you can consider:
1. Throw Blankets–Bring a cozy throw blanket into the vehicle for each passenger
2. Warm Drinks–Provide warm drinks in covered, vehicle-safe drinking container for each passenger
3. Warm Water Bottles–Give heated warm water bottles or heated thermal packs for passengers to hold in their laps or place in their pockets. (Always use hot water bottles with EXTREME caution, being careful they are not too warm for younger passengers).
4. Thermal Blankets–Bring along thermal blankets that heat when plugged into cigarette lighter outlets.
5. Bring Kids Out Later–If two adults are living in the household, have one adult sit in the vehicle (not while in a garage, of course), while it warms up; then, the other adult can bring the children to the vehicle.
6. Nix the Vans and Vents–Keep fans off and heating vents turned away from passengers until the vehicle has warmed up sufficiently to provide heated air. Otherwise, you’ll just be blowing frigid air on passengers and making everyone feel even colder.
7. Travel Later in the Day–When possible, complete errands during the warmer parts of the day then the sun may have had some time to come through vehicle windows and create at least some warmth, compared to the exterior temperature of the vehicle.