The extreme cold is putting many in danger with the law or with their health.
On any morning with sub-freezing temperatures, countless cars and trucks can be seen idling in driveways and parking lots with tailpipes fuming and drivers missing. The seemingly innocent act is illegal in most areas.
In Nashville, Metropolitan Code 12.40.200 states it is unlawful to leave a vehicle unattended without first turning off the engine and removing the key from ignition. In 2010, the ordinance was amended to exclude remote starters that allow vehicles to be locked while the engine is running.
The law was implemented to prevent auto thefts.
According to Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD), five automobiles stolen between Sunday, January 12, and Saturday, January 18, were considered easy targets because the keys were left inside or made available to thieves. Three of the five were taken when owners left the vehicles running unattended to warm up.
Most automobile experts say a vehicle warm up isn't necessary for modern, fuel-injected cars.
In response to a question regarding warming up vehicles in winter weather, Tom and Ray Magliozzi of Car Talk said, “With modern cars, all you're doing with a long warm-up is wasting gas, increasing pollution, raising the temperature of the planet and making yourself 10 minutes late.”
The general consensus for a vehicle that starts promptly is to put it in drive and go. If temperatures are bitterly cold, or below 32 degrees, allow the vehicle to warm up one to two minutes maximum, and then gently drive. The vehicle, and all its parts, should be warm within five to 10 minutes of being on the road.
Leaving a vehicle running unattended can result in more than a citation for the vehicle owner. If damage is caused by the thief while in the stolen vehicle, the owner could be responsible for those damages.
MNPD's Park Smart campaign strongly urges citizens to lock their automobile doors, secure any valuables, and remove the keys in any weather.
Keeping the car warm isn't the only concern with frigid temperatures.
Earlier this week, the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) held a news conference urging people to take caution when outdoors.
There are warning signs of cold-related health problems.
Shivering is the first sign of cold exposure. It is the body trying to generate heat with uncontrolled muscle contraction.
Frostbite is the freezing of superficial tissues, including extremities like fingers, toes, and ears. Symptoms can include pain, burning, numbness. The skin may be hard, white, itchy, or even have blisters.
Hypothermia is a significant drop in body temperature that causes shivering, confusion, numbness, lack of coordination or difficulty speaking.
These conditions can often be avoided by staying dry and dressing in layers. Good hydration and nutrition are also helpful in maintaining body warmth.
Extreme cold can be dangerous regardless of the activity. If you or someone you know has symptoms of cold exposure, seek help immediately.