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Take care when warming up the car

With this latest cold weather, my husband goes out and starts his car five minutes or so before he goes to work in the morning. I told him I thought that was illegal or that at a minimum it was adding to air pollution. A few minutes with the ice scraper wouldn't hurt him, but he's not about to give up his warming routine. What's your verdict on his behavior?

— Joyce H., Medford

Our verdict is unanimous, Joyce — your husband is guilty of being a weenie. On the other hand, the high court of Since You Asked jurisprudence will be lenient in sentencing because he does have a mitigating factor in his favor: It's been too darn cold out there.

As for whether it's legal to leave your car running unattended to warm it up, it all depends on where it's parked. If it's in your driveway, it's legal. If it's on a public street, it's not.

If you leave your car running on a city street, you are violating Oregon Vehicle Code 811.585 and could be cited for "failure to secure a motor vehicle." (You also could be cited for the same offense if you leave your keys in the ignition, fail to properly set the brakes or fail to turn the vehicle's wheels into the curb on a hill.)

Leaving the car running while unattended poses another risk: One winter's night several years ago, a Mail Tribune staffer was doing just that, but when he went outside to drive his warm car home, it was gone. A tempting target of opportunity for a would-be car thief.

As for the pollution factor: Yes, an idling engine puts pollutants in the air — depending on the engine size, about one pound of carbon dioxide is released for every 10 minutes your engine idles. Carbon dioxide is considered the primary contributor to global warming (and, no, we don't want to debate in this space whether global warming is a hoax; we'll just stick to the fact that clean air is better than dirty air).

We do have a suggestion for your husband. It's called a garage and it's often found attached to a house. So if you have a large enclosed space at the top of your driveway that you always thought was a storage unit, you might want to consider pushing the piles far enough to the side to allow a car to be parked there. It might be a chore clearing the space, but it beats scraping ice off the windshield every morning.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.