For many people, it makes total sense: Thaw your frozen car and icy windshield on a cold winter morning by starting the engine, then going back inside until your ride’s nice and toasty. Problem is, you may be opening yourself up to car theft ... and likely breaking the law!
PEMCO Poll on the topic found that 63% of those polled admitted to being “puffers” – drivers who start their cars, then leave them unattended and idling while they warm up.
It’s a risky practice, though, for two reasons:
It’s basically an invitation to come steal your vehicle! Leaving the keys or fob in the car makes it easy for an opportunistic thief to jump in and drive away. (It happens more often than you’d think – the National Insurance Crime Bureau
estimates there’s a car theft every 6 ½ minutes where the driver left the keys or fob inside.)
It’s also against the law in many places. In Washington, state law requires drivers to stop their car’s engine, lock the ignition, remove the keys, and set the brake before leaving a vehicle unattended. Oregon state law uses similar language and holds drivers to the same requirements.
Washington and Oregon state laws also require drivers to keep their windshield free of frost, ice, snow – basically anything that can obstruct the drivers’ view. So
don’t try to cut corners and just scrape enough to see the road right ahead, figuring that the defroster will take care of the rest. It’s dangerous, because you won’t be able to see and react to cars or people coming from other angles.
And not only that, but a frosty windshield could get you pulled over and earn you a ticket. Not a fun way to start the day.
Your best bet to avoid winter weather windshield woes? Park your car inside for the night, if you can. Otherwise, brave the elements and sit in your car as it thaws. (We recommend you bring a nice big thermos of coffee to keep you warm while you wait.) If you find yourself scraping your windshield frequently during the winter, you may also want to invest in a windshield snow cover (like
one of these) so you can avoid that chore entirely.