New Jersey has a law you may not know about it, and you likely violate it this time of year. Did you know even in your own driveway on a cold winter morning you are not allowed to let your car warm up for more than 3 minutes if it's as cold as 25 degrees?

Only if your car has been sitting for three hours or more and only if the temperature is below 25 are you allowed to idle for longer than those 180 seconds. Go over 3 minutes and police are allowed to enforce this obscure law and slap you with a $250 fine for a first offense. Yes, they are even allowed to enforce this on your own property, in your own driveway.

Sure it might not come up often, but imagine one disgruntled neighbor out to make your life hell and that's all it could take. One call to your local police and you might be paid a visit. It gets worse. A second offense nails you with a $500 fine and a third offense will cost you $1,000. It takes a special kind of cold heart to enforce something like this. You need to put your 3-yea- old in the car to drop them at daycare and your choice is strap them in a freezing car seat or risk several hundred dollars? How 'Jersey' is that?!

This idle law was last upgraded in 2012. Here's a summary of what it entails.

Summary of N.J. Idling Requirements for Motor Vehicles N.J.A.C. 7:27-14,15 (Revised September 2012)

All vehicles may idle for up to three minutes with the following exceptions:

  • May idle for up to 15 consecutive minutes when the vehicle has been stopped for 3 or more hours and ONLY if temperature is • Buses may idle while actively discharging or picking up passengers for 15 consecutive minutes in a 60-minute period
  • No idling is allowed in a parking space with available and functioning electrification technology

Three-minute idling limit does NOT apply to:

  • Motor vehicles stopped in traffic
  • Motor vehicles whose primary power source is utilized in whole or in part for necessary and prescribed mechanical operations such as refrigeration units for perishable loads, hydraulic lifts, “cherry pickers”, or similar equipment
  • Motor vehicles waiting to be examined by state or federal motor vehicle inspectors or motor vehicles while being repaired
  • Vehicles that are actively performing emergency services, such as fire, police, snow removal, and utility vehicles
  • Operation of auxiliary or alternate power systems for cabin comfort
  • A motor vehicle with a sleeper berth, equipped with a 2007 or newer engine, or that has been retrofitted with a diesel particulate filter while the driver is resting or sleeping in the sleeper berth. Other idling is still prohibited.

PENALTIES: For commercial vehicle and property owner, $250 for first violation, $500 for second violation, $1000 for third and each subsequent violation.

This article was originally published in 2018 and has been updated in reference to December 2020's first big snowstorm.

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