As cold as it gets in Massachusetts during the winter, car owners are going to have to resist the urge to warm up their cars before driving – or else they will be fined by the state.
Mass Live reported Thursday that Massachusetts law Chapter 90 Sec. 16A states: “No person shall cause, suffer, allow or permit the unnecessary operation of the engine of a motor vehicle while said vehicle is stopped for a foreseeable period of time in excess of five minutes.”
This means that idling one’s car for more than five minutes “could result in a $100 fine for the first offense, and up to $500 for each subsequent offense,” the outlet reported.
In a statement, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection said, “The goal of the Massachusetts Anti-Idling Law is to improve air quality by reducing unnecessary air pollution from idling vehicles.”
There are several exceptions for the fine, including idling the car to defrost a windshield. The law also does not apply to:
(a) vehicles being serviced, provided that operation of the engine is essential to the proper repair thereof, or
(b) vehicles engaged in the delivery or acceptance of goods, wares, or merchandise for which engine assisted power is necessary and substitute alternate means cannot be made available, or
(c) vehicles engaged in an operation for which the engine power is necessary for an associate power need other than movement and substitute alternate power means cannot be made available provided that such operation does not cause or contribute to a condition of air pollution.
An explainer issued by the state government in 2018 went into a little more detail about the exemptions. For example, using the engine to power additional devices, such as a wheelchair lift or the lift on the back of a truck, is exempted. That explainer also claims that idling vehicles can warm up within five minutes and that cars warm faster when driven. Still, the government says five minutes “should be the maximum amount of time unless weather conditions are extreme,” but it doesn’t define “extreme.”
The explainer also said that stopping and starting a car to avoid the idling limit does not cause more pollution and that starters don’t wear out faster with this method.
The law has been in effect for years, but thankfully, according to Patch, it doesn’t appear to be enforced all that often – at least not in Boston. Patch was actually criticizing the government for not being more proactive in fining citizens, but the article still gives the impression that the anti-idling law is rarely enforced.
For good reason – it is difficult to tell how long a car has been idling unless someone has been watching it. This would require police to sit around watching running vehicles instead of dealing with actual crime. Of course, Massachusetts has an answer for that: Residents can call to tattle on their neighbors who leave their cars running too long.