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Garrett Walsh

Senior insurance professional with over 20 year’s experience in claims management.

Updated: | 4 minute read

When temperatures are low, not only is it a tough slog to get out of bed, but we also need to contend with the thick block of ice that seems to appear on the car windows every night.     

This provides one of those irritable circumstances that we all know is coming and yet can do very little about. As much as we tell ourselves that we’re going to get up that little bit earlier to defrost the car properly, more often than not, we find ourselves still frantically chiselling away as our work start time gradually looms up behind us.  

Another method that has become common is to simply turn on your car, put the heating on full blast, and then return to your house while that ice gradually melts. Sounds like an ideal time-saving method to deal with a horrible job, right? Well - not quite. On paper, it’s a method that sounds great, but the more you mull it over, leaving your car running with the keys left in the ignition while you go back inside, is risky - to say the very least.  

1. The Law

First and foremost, it’s against the law to leave your car idling on public roads when you’re not present. That may surprise many, but doing so can land you with a fine of between €1,000 and €2,000 and up to three months in prison.

It’s important to stress that this law only applies to public roads, meaning driveways are OK, but even a car parked right outside of a house on a street is deemed to be on a public road. This may seem a little draconian and the kind of offence that few are ever going to be prosecuted over, but they certainly happen, and your punishment increases with each subsequent offence.    

2. Car Theft 

If the threat of legal issues doesn’t prevent you from leaving your car running on the street, this next point just might. Over the last five to ten years there has been a steadily increasing number of cars being stolen right outside their owner's houses because they have been left idling to clear the ice. 

You have to wonder who exactly is staking out houses on freezing mornings to take advantage of this, but the Garda have deemed it a sufficient enough problem to release their own statement on the matter and warn people about leaving their car running for any reason. 

The Gardaí believe that many of these robberies are a result of organised gangs who are specifically targeting cars on frosty mornings. They are watching out for people coming out and starting their engine, then briefly heading back into their house while the windscreen clears. With the engine running and the doors unlocked, it takes mere seconds for the thief to get away.

3. Insurance Problems  

If you do come back outside your house and find a frosty void where your car was just sitting, you’ll no doubt be infuriated, but once the dust settles you can console yourself with that car insurance policy that covers car theft. However, there’s some bad news - some very bad news.  

As with many insurance policies, your vehicle is not covered if it is stolen while the keys are left in the ignition, meaning that this really annoying, yet widely barely problem can quickly turn into a full-blown disaster. 

This may sound like a cheap insurance trick to con people out of a perfectly suitable policy but think about it, if you leave an expensive car completely unattended with the keys in the ignition, even after the warnings from Garda, it’s difficult to argue that you have taken the appropriate steps to ensure the security of your car.    

4. The Environment 

The last point may not sound as serious as the others but should certainly still be taken into consideration. Idling vehicles can sometimes emit more than twice the amount of CO2 that they would if they were in motion. Whether a car is left idling in the morning to help clear ice from its windshield or simply by the side of the road so you can keep the music playing, unnecessary CO2 is being pumped into the atmosphere. 

Last year, the Irish Times reported that CO2 emissions could be cut in Ireland by 1.4 million tonnes each year if drivers avoided idling for just three minutes each day - the equivalent of removing 320,000 cars from our roads. 

Leaving your car idling, for whatever reason, is not only against the law, it’s bad for the environment, especially when so many people are doing it at the same time. Surely we can all agree that clean air is something we can all work towards?  

5. A Word of Advice 

We advise you to give yourself an extra ten minutes in the morning to de-ice your car while remaining in the vehicle, especially as there is more frost forecasted in the coming weeks. Ideally, you should have your car serviced before the winter to make sure your car is ready and able for the harsh conditions which can’t always be forecasted. 

You should also make sure that all of your lights are in full working order, as well as ensure the appropriate levels for liquids, oils, and tyres.

6. Car Insurance 

At we know that anything can happen when it comes to the cars that we often cherish dearly. Don’t take any chances when it comes to your vehicle and make sure you have the best possible car insurance covering it. We offer excellent value policies for both young drivers and seasoned pros that will let you drive this winter with complete peace of mind. 

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