It's Legal to Warm Up Your Vehicle Unattended Under Montana Law

Jan 3, 2018

A common sight during the winter is to see a car idling unattended. Before the 2017 Montana Legislature this technically was illegal until HB 241 was passed and signed into law. Still, law enforcement officials advise drivers not to do this because of the risk their vehicle might be stolen.
Credit Jackie Yamanaka

Thanks to the 2017 Montana Legislature, it is no longer illegal to start up your vehicle and leave it running  unattended while the engine warms up.  It's a common sight during the winter.

State Representative Alan Doane, R-Bloomfield, says his bill came about because Billings Police Lt. Neil Lawrence told the Billings Gazette 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."

In introducing his bill on the House Floor during the 2017 Montana Legislature, Doane called it the remote start protection act.  He says drivers often use this to start their vehicles, particularly in the winter.

Rep. Alan Doane, R-Bloomfield, is the sponsor of HB 241.
Credit Legislative Services

"With the new technology, auto start technology, and things like that I thought, 'Everybody’s breaking the law because the law has not kept up with the times,'" he says. "And I thought it was time to change that."

So Doane's House Bill 241 sought to amend MCA 61-8-357 to bring the law up to date to allow remote starters.  It was an issue with broad bi-partisan support as all 100-members of the Montana House of Representatives are listed as sponsors. The measure easily sailed through the legislative process.

Governor Steve Bullock signed the bill into law February 23, 2017 and had an immediate effective date.