This Montana Idling Law Changed in 2017, Did You Know?
You can always tell the parents who overslept at school drop-offs here in Montana. It is typically the vehicles with ice and snow still frozen to the windshields with just a little hole scraped out on the driver's side. Clearly not the safest way to operate a vehicle in the winter, but it is something I witness on every cold day at my son's school.
I have a routine of starting my vehicle every morning to defrost the car windows. Outside of the summer months, there is rarely a time when there isn't a slight coating of ice on my windshield in the early morning hours. Unfortunately, I live on a radio broadcaster's salary and have yet to buy myself one of them fancy remote-start contraptions.
Little did I know, but for years I was breaking the law here in Montana. Every morning when I would start my car and head back in to pour some coffee, I was violating MCA 61-8-357. This law pertains to unattended motor vehicles.
No person driving or in charge of a motor vehicle shall permit it to stand unattended without first stopping the engine and effectively setting the brake thereon and, when standing upon any grade, turning the front wheels to the curb or side of the highway in such a manner as to prevent the vehicle from rolling onto the roadway.
If this law was enforced, I would probably have a stack of tickets that could touch the ceiling. Thankfully, it was revised in 2017 when State Representative Alan Doane took his "Remote Start Protection Act" to the House floor.
According to Yellowstone Public Radio
State Representative Alan Doane, R-Bloomfield, says his bill came about because Billings Police Lt. Neil Lawrence told the Billings Gazette that state law prohibits drivers from leaving their idling cars.
"And I thought no way, not in today’s day and age," says Doane. "And so I looked up the law and sure enough we had an old archaic law on the books."
HB241 was passed with bipartisan support and signed into law in 2017. Essentially removing a few words from the previous unattended vehicle law.
A person driving or in charge of a motor vehicle shall may not permit it to stand unattended without safely securing it in such a manner as to prevent the vehicle from rolling onto the roadway.
With the cold starting to set in this winter, you can guarantee that you will still see sleepy parents gazing through the little frozen hole in their vehicle. But, at least they can't use the excuse that it is illegal to idle your car.
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