Puffing: It's still illegal

AURORA - Aurora Police were out Tuesday morning, looking for people who left their cars running. 

Officers either gave the drivers warnings or tickets, depending on the violation.

As the temperatures drop, some people start their cars before heading off to work in the morning -- then head back inside until the car is warm. It's called "puffing."

Law enforcement warn the exhaust from the tailpipe is a green light for car thieves.

"In just a few seconds, these car thieves that are out patrolling your neighborhood looking for easy targets can just climb in your car and drive away with it," Officer Bill Hummel with Aurora Police said. 

On Tuesday, two men went into a home using a key they stole out of a car puffing back on Jan. 22: http://on9news.tv/1Uolkda.

In Colorado, a person cannot leave a vehicle unattended until it's parked safely and the key is removed from the ignition. Law enforcement can cite for a traffic infraction if a car is left running and the driver isn't inside.

The statute for an unattended motor vehicle (C.R.S. 42-4-1206) states:

"No person driving or in charge of a motor vehicle shall permit it to stand unattended without first stopping the engine, locking the ignition, removing the key from the ignition, and effectively setting the brake thereon, and, when standing upon any grade, said person shall turn the front wheels to the curb or side of the highway in such a manner as to prevent the vehicle from rolling onto the traveled way. Any person who violates any provision of this section commits a class B traffic infraction."

While many cities enforce the state statute, there are some differences depending on where you are. For example, Aurora Police will not cite drivers who start their cars with remote starters. Denver Police will.

"I recommend that people check with their local jurisdictions to ensure that [remote starting your vehicle] is legal," Officer Hummel said. "As long as the keys are not in it in the City of Aurora, then it's legal."

The City and County of Denver has an idling vehicle municipal code that includes some exemptions to puffing, including an exemption when the weather is below a certain temperature.

"No person shall allow a vehicle to idle for more than five minutes in any one-hour period unless:

  1. The ambient outside air temperature has been less than 20 degrees Fahrenheit for each hour of the previous 24-hour period
  2. The latest hourly ambient outside air temperature is less than 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

The idling restriction in subsection shall not apply to emergency vehicles; to vehicles engaged in traffic control operations; to vehicles which are being serviced; to vehicles that must idle to operate auxiliary equipment, including but not limited to pumps, compressors or refrigeration units; or to vehicles en route to a destination that are stopped by traffic congestion.

The idling restriction in subsection applies to transportation vehicles, as defined in this subsection, except that the time during which transportation vehicles are actively loading or discharging passengers may not be included in the computation of the five minutes provided for in subsection 4-43(a). A transportation vehicle shall be defined for purposes of this section to mean motor vehicles designed to transport a minimum of 16 persons."

"What we're seeing is that these people who take these puffers are going out and committing much more serious crimes with these cars," Officer Hummel said. "So it really does impact the rest of the community."

(© 2016 KUSA)


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