‘Puffing’ can get you a ticket in Colorado

(Update, Oct. 20, 2016: The puffing law has been changed to exempt remote-start vehicles.)

A local news channel just reminded me of one of the more ridiculous laws here in Colorado. We can be ticketed and fined for “puffing.”

What’s puffing, you may ask. It is the common cold-weather practice of leaving your car running to warm it up while you go back inside. Yep, that’s right. Around here you can get fined for leaving an idling vehicle unattended. Up to $100 in one city. Seriously.

The temperature is stuck on 12° today, and the forecast high for tomorrow is -2°. There’s ice on the roads, snow, accidents, pipes bursting, fires. But the cops can issue tickets if people try to warm up their cars before hitting the road.

I haven’t heard the rationale behind the puffing law. Maybe the insurance companies lobbied for it because too many cars were getting stolen. Maybe somebody thought people might asphyxiate themselves, or that runaway cars would endanger pedestrians. Who knows.

This is government run amok (something new and different), not to mention a waste of resources. I don’t see why the police should get involved if I want to warm up my car, especially if it’s sitting on my property, while I go back inside for a few minutes.

Needless to say, I was more than a little amused when I read this morning that a puffing police patrol car had been stolen.

Further reading found the law was intended to cut down on car theft. So shouldn’t the state be making the thieves pay instead of the car owners? We car owners are already paying; we pay for car insurance to protect against theft. We also pay taxes for law enforcement to catch thieves, not ticket the potential victims.

Dec. 19, 2015: Just heard tonight on the local news that the law is a state law, that it applies to all cars whether or not a remote starter has been used. The intent, they said, is to reduce air pollution. Yet other local stations report that if you use a remote starter, which means no keys in the car, you’re within the law. Confusing.

Feb. 10, 2015: Denver Channel 7 reports that Colorado lawmakers are considering exempting remote-start vehicles from the puffing law.

The text of the current law: C.R.S. 42-4-1206 (2012)


11 thoughts on “‘Puffing’ can get you a ticket in Colorado

  1. Wow. I live in upstate New York where the weather is none-too-kind as well. I remember one time I started my morning commute with ice partially obscuring the windshield. I wound up running over the dog of some little girl who was on her paper route. Fluffy was okay, but I vowed never to drive again without being able to see clearly out the windshield. There are strange laws everywhere. For example, a man can;t drive shirtless in NYC. Who makes these laws?

  2. Although I now live south of you in New Mexico, I was born and raised in northern Indiana. And was also raised that in cold weather, primarily below freezing, it is not good on a car engine to drive it cold. Always allow it to warm up. I, too, am curious as to the reasoning behind this ridiculous law. I have to admit, though, I did get a nice chuckle out of the “puffling” police car being stolen…. 🙂

  3. Ridiculous? I’ll tell you what’s ridiculous: my “tough guy” neighbor who lets his truck idle 20 minutes every morning, because he’s too much of a pussy to ride in a cold vehicle. Yes, ticket all you idiots who can’t handle a little cold. (I grew up in MN, and the only time we “puffed” was when it was below zero.

    1. The only time I “puff” is while I’m clearing snow off the roof and windows, which is rare since I have a garage. I’ve always been too afraid my car would get swiped.

... and that's my two cents