With the cold weather people have been leaving their vehicles running unattended, and that poses possible penalties for drivers, according to Midland College Police Chief Richard McKee.
“Our goal is not to issue citations but to educate people and make them aware of what’s going on,” he said. “State law says when you park your vehicle that the vehicle has to be locked and the keys removed from the ignition or to turn that around, you can’t leave your vehicle running unattended with the keys in it and the doors unlocked.”
According to sec. 545.404 of the Texas Penal Code, an operator may not leave the vehicle unattended without: 1) stopping the engine; 2) locking the ignition; 3) removing the key from the ignition; 4) setting the parking brake effectively; and 5) if standing on a grade, turning the front wheels to the curb or side of the highway.
While some people have no idea that the law exists, it has been in effect since 1995.
Tanya Primera, director of the Helen L. Greathouse Children’s Center, said parents often leave their vehicles running while they drop off or pick up their children.
The staff regularly notifies the parents of the law and they put announcements in the newsletters. However, it is a common problem in the summer and winter months.
The fine can run up to $500, but remote-start vehicles are excluded because the keys are not in the ignition and you have the ability to lock the vehicle.
With the keys out of the ignition and the steering column locked, that allows a vehicle to warm up without the possibility of someone jumping in the vehicle and driving off in it.
“It takes [snaps fingers] that long for somebody to jump in the car and take off,” McKee said.
“While we want people to be comfortable, we also want them to be safe,” McKee said.
“One thing we have to be aware of is, while this is a small campus, and we are open to the public, there are a lot people who are not associated with Midland College who are coming onto this campus,” McKee said.