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During the cold winter months, many drivers turn on their cars to let them warm up.  However, be aware of a Massachusetts law that limits the amount of time a car engine can legally be idling.  (Mass. General Laws, chapter 90 sec. 16A)

The law states that a car cannot be idling more than 5 minutes unless it is being serviced or it is being used to deliver or accept goods where engine assisted power is necessary.  If someone is caught, they can be levied with a $100 fine for the first offense and up to $500 for subsequent offenses.  A regulation from the Department of Environmental Protection at 310 CMR 7.11(1)(b) mirrors the language in the statute.

Section 16B of Chapter 90 of the Mass. General Laws prohibits extended idling on school grounds with the same penalties.  The Registry of Motor Vehicles has issued regulations (540 CMR 27) that provide more information on limitations to idling on school grounds. These regulations provide that “No motor vehicle operator shall cause or allow the engine of any motor vehicle operated by him or her on school grounds to idle unnecessarily.” Idling that is permissible is outlined in the same regulation, which includes very detailed provisions for idling in specific circumstances, such as: “If the exterior temperature is less than 35° F, then idling is allowed to heat the interior of any motor vehicle other than a school bus for a period or periods aggregating not more than one minute in any 15 minute period during which the motor vehicle is waiting to accept or discharge passengers.”

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