Michigan: You Can Be Ticketed for Warming Up Your Car… or Worse
A Roseville man found out the hard way that, in some parts of Michigan, it is illegal to warm your car up before driving it. That's nowhere near as bad as what can happen if you do that in Flint though.
Roseville's Nick Taylor, obviously upset with the ticket he had just received, took to Facebook to vent his frustrations, claiming he received a ticket for warming up his car in his own driveway. Apparently, having the keys in the ignition, with your vehicle running while unattended is a civil infraction in some municipalities in Michigan, and is a bit of a gray area statewide.
According to the City of Flint's Code of Ordinances, you might also get a ticket (or worse) for doing that in Vehicle City. As Section 28-102 states:
(a) No person shall leave a motor vehicle, except a commercial motor vehicle, unattended on any street, alley, used car lot, or unattended parking lot, without first stopping the engine, locking the ignition, removing the key and taking it with him or her; provided, however, that any violation of these provisions shall not mitigate the offense of stealing such motor vehicle, nor shall such violation be used to effect a recovery in any civil action for theft of the motor vehicle, or the insurance thereon, or have any other bearing in any civil action.
Whenever any police officer of the City of Flint shall find any vehicle standing in violation of the foregoing provision, such police officer is authorized and directed to issue a traffic summons for the violation and then remove therefrom the keys left therein and deliver the same to the Officer in Charge of the Patrol Division at the Police Station, or to impound said vehicle, at the direction of the Commanding Officer, in the event that the ignition is left in the unlocked position with no keys.
You read that correctly -- your car could be impounded! As with most legal documents, there is a bit of room for interpretation here. While private property is not specifically mentioned, it could be argued that most private properties are located "on any street" and might then fall under the umbrella of the ordinance. Either way, Flint's ordinance is definitely more strict than Michigan Vehicle Code, Section 257.676, which states the following:
A person shall not allow a motor vehicle to stand on a highway unattended without engaging the parking brake or placing the vehicle in park and stopping the motor of the vehicle. If the vehicle is standing upon a grade, the front wheels of the vehicle shall be turned to the curb or side of the highway.
Michigan State Police Lt. Rob Davis told MLive readers in a recent Q&A that the term "Highway" in the state law refers to "the boundary lines of any publicly maintained roadway," and added "you would not be violating any law by warming up your car in your own driveway or leaving it running in a private parking lot." However, that is only on a state level. The rules can and, in some places like Flint, Roseville, and Grand Rapids, are different.
So to review, leaving an unattended vehicle running with the keys in it on a public roadway is Illegal throughout Michigan. Leaving an unattended vehicle running with the keys in it is illegal virtually everywhere in Flint, with the possible exception of private property. In an attempt at clarity, our News Director, Dan Foley, reached out to Genesee County Undersheriff Chris Swanson, who said that leaving an unattended vehicle running in your driveway is not illegal.
It's likely just one of those old-timey Michigan laws that no one really enforces anymore, like how it's illegal to get drunk on a train, or for a woman to get a haircut without her husband's permission. Still, it doesn't hurt to play it safe and just get a remote starter. No keys, no problem, right? It's certainly better than walking out into the blistering cold and discovering that your vehicle has been impounded.