The annual Christmas journey is approaching for some and many of us not fortunate enough to be able to work from home still have the challenge of a winter commute and will again face spending their mornings de-icing their cars as temperatures begin to plummet.

Drivers may not be aware that their preferred method of clearing ice and snow from their vehicles could mean that they are breaking the law and putting their vehicle at risk.

Not only do the fumes caused by idling put out gasses which are harmful to the environment but your vehicle could be stolen.

Drivers “must not leave a parked vehicle unattended with the engine running,” according to the highway code.

“Generally, if the vehicle is stationary and is likely to remain so for more than a couple of minutes, you should apply the parking brake and switch off the engine to reduce emissions and noise pollution,” it states.

You also need to make sure that the whole of the windscreen is completely clear, too. Simply clearing a small area out on the driver side is not acceptable and puts you and others at risk. It’s unsafe and you would be breaking the law.

Police have already begun issuing warnings as winter weather sets in that leaving the engine running while heading back indoors could invite an opportunist thief to steal your vehicle.

Criminals “could be on the lookout to take advantage of a vehicle left while its owner is warming it up to defrost the windows”. – Thames Valley Police in Milton Keynes

“It literally only needs a moment for a thief to have enough time to jump behind the wheel and drive off with your car,” the force wrote.

Keeping the engine running unnecessarily will mean your exhaust is releasing fumes into the environment.

“These fumes contain a number of harmful gasses including carbon dioxide, which is bad for the environment and contributes towards climate change, as well as a range of other harmful gasses including nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons which are linked to asthma and other lung diseases.” – RAC

The highway code states you “must be able to see, so clear all snow and ice from all your windows” and “ensure that lights are clean and number plates are clearly visible and legible”, so check there’s no ice or snow blocking those.

It also recommends making sure that your mirrors and windows are completely de-misted, removing snow that could fall into other drivers’ paths and making sure that your route ahead is clear of delays and severe weather.

Instead of leaving the engine running, consider using a can of de-icer and a plastic scraper to clear any windows and all ice and snow covering the car.

Remember that when it snows or the roads are icy, it is recommended to only travel if necessary.

Adapted from an original article by

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