Colorado Laws & Ordinances Limit Vehicle Idling to Combat Air Pollution


Many local and state governments have adopted laws and ordinances that limit vehicle idling to combat increasing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Each law and ordinance varies in who it targets, the basic overall structure, and the penalties associated with not complying, however, the overall objective of each law and ordinance remains the same – to protect air quality by reducing emissions created by unnecessary vehicle idling.

Colorado Laws and Ordinances

  • Aspen – Limits vehicle idling to five minutes in any one-hour period and the vehicle must be attended to at all times
  • Basalt – Limits vehicle idling to no more than two consecutive minutes
  • Denver – Limits vehicle idling to five minutes in any one-hour period and the vehicle must be attended to at all times.
  • Johnstown – Vehicles weighing more than ten thousand (10,000) pounds are forbidden from idling for more than 15 minutes in any one-hour period
  • Greenwood Village – Vehicles weighing more than twelve thousand (12,000) pounds are restricted from idling for a consecutive period longer than five minutes
  • Mountain Village – Limits vehicle idling to five minutes within any one-hour period and the vehicle must also be attended to by a licensed operator
  • Telluride – Limits vehicle idling to 30 seconds and vehicle must be attended by a driver. Idling time permitted is extended to three minutes for starting an engine in cold weather
  • Winter Park – Limits vehicle idling to no more than 15 consecutive minutes

In addition to the laws and ordinances listed above, Colorado Revised Statute 42-4-1206, more commonly known as the "puffer" law, allows law enforcement officers across the state to immediately ticket individuals who have left a vehicle running unattended for any period of time.

Additional Laws and Ordinances from across the United States

  • District of Columbia – Limits vehicle idling to three minutes while the vehicle is parked, stopped, or standing, including for the purpose of operating air conditioning equipment in the vehicle
  • Salt Lake City, UT – Limits vehicle idling to two minutes within city limits. First offenses are provided a warning, however, subsequent offenses can result in a fine up to $410
  • Park City, UT – Limits vehicle idling to three minutes and carries a $100 fine for violators
  • Minneapolis, MN – Limits vehicle idling to no more than three minutes in any one-hour period. Vehicle operators may idle for up to 15 minutes in temperatures less than zero degrees or higher than 90 degrees
  • Vermont – School buses shall not idle the engine on school grounds for more than five minutes within a one-hour period and must turn off the main engine upon arrival

Common Exemptions Found in Idling Laws and Ordinances

  • The ambient outside air temperature has been less than twenty (20) degrees Fahrenheit for each hour of the previous twenty-four (24) hour period; or
  • The latest hourly ambient outside air temperature is less than ten (10) degrees Fahrenheit.
  • The idling restriction in subsection (a) shall not apply to emergency vehicles; to vehicles engaged in traffic control operations; to vehicles which are being serviced; to vehicles that must idle to operate auxiliary equipment, including but not limited to pumps, compressors or refrigeration units; or to vehicles en route to a destination that are stopped by traffic congestion.
  • The time during which transportation vehicles are actively loading or discharging passengers shall not be included in the computation of the five (5) minutes determined herein to be a prolonged or unreasonable period of time. A transportation vehicle shall be defined for purposes of this section to mean motor vehicles designed to transport a minimum of sixteen (16) persons

What Can I Do?

  • Encourage your elected officials to adopt an idling ordinance. For example, the City and County of Denver's Idling Vehicle Ordinance limits idling to five minutes in any one-hour period. Denver Police have the authority to ticket any vehicle left idling for a period longer than five minutes and can ticket immediately any vehicle left idling unattended ("puffer" law).
  • The Colorado State idling law, passed in 2011, allows local governments to limit idling by some of these vehicles (commercial diesel vehicles of 14,000 lbs or more) to no more than 5 minutes within 1 hour. Communities can impose a fine of up to $150 for first time offenses and up to $500 for second offenses and beyond.
  • Read the US EPA's Model Idling Ordinance.
  • Use this sample idling law as a template to draft your own legislation for your community


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