Is it legal to leave your car running while defrosting your windscreen?

George Martin
·3-min read
A motorist clears snow from the windscreen of a car in Hartley Wintney, in Hampshire, 40 miles west of London, on February 1, 2019. - Snowfall and icy conditions were expected Friday to cause travel disruption after temperatures overnight reached as low as minus 15.4C. An amber snow warning has been issued for an area west of London including parts of Oxfordshire, Hampshire and Buckinghamshire, after as much as 14cm of snow fell on south-west England. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP)        (Photo credit should read ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)
A motorist clears snow from their windscreen in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire back in February this year. (Getty)

Motorists have been warned they could face fines for leaving their car unattended while defrosting the windscreen this winter.

With forecasters warning that freezing cold temperatures could hit as soon as next week, drivers have been advised to make sure they de-ice their windscreens legally.

As the law stands, drivers are expected to always be in control of their vehicle while the engine is running - even when they're defrosting the windows.

Failure to be in control can result in fines of up to £40 under the guidelines set out in the Highway Code.

Traffic in snowy conditions on the N7 in Dublin. Snow and sleet has caused travel disruption in Ireland as Storm Freya causes travel disruption amid a number of weather warnings.
Drivers have been warned they could face fines for failing to defrost their cars properly. (Getty)

Is leaving your car to defrost illegal?

Yes, leaving your car unattended is an offence under regulations 98 and 107 of the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986.

According to the RAC’s website the rules were brought in to reinforce rule 123 of the Highway Code, which states: “If you fail to turn off your engine when instructed, you may receive a fixed penalty notice of £20, which will increase to £40 if unpaid within a specific timeframe.”

The RAC website goes on to state that it isn’t an offence “to leave your engine running on private land, such as a driveway”.

It does, however, add that drivers are “very unlikely to be caught out”.

What are the other dangers?

A Metropolitan Police spokesperson told Yahoo News there is also a danger of car theft when drivers leave their cars unattended.

Insurance companies may also refuse to pay out if they find out your car was stolen after you left the keys in the ignition.

“Look after yourself, your family and other road users by clearing your front and rear windscreen of any frost, ice and snow and ensure your side mirrors are clearly visible,” the spokesperson said.

“Never leave your keys in the ignition while your vehicle is unattended, even for a few minutes. Thieves will steal cars that have been left with the engine running to defrost the windows.

“It’s also important to remember that motorists who leave their vehicle unattended with the engine idling to clear frost could potentially receive a fixed penalty notice from the local authority under the Road Vehicle Regulations (1986).

“Stay with your vehicle, make sure you’ve cleared the frost completely, and you’ll be ready to go.”

Do I have to defrost my car?

The Highway Code is clear that you must be able to see properly before you set off on a journey.

Under their rules, motorists are required to ensure that lights are clean and number plates are clearly visible, clear all snow and ice from windows, make sure that the mirrors are clear and demist the windscreen.

Drivers who are found to only have partial vision of the road could be penalised with a £60 fine and three penalty points.

---Watch the latest videos from Yahoo UK---