As cold weather grips most of the state, it is not uncommon to see a car left unattended and running, but many motorists don’t realize this is against Illinois state law.

The Illinois State Police is reminding drivers who leave their cars running and unattended could face fines or a bigger problem: Car theft.

Illinois State Police Public Information Officer Sgt. Delila Garcia said leaving a car unattended during the wintertime gives car thieves an easy opportunity. She said drivers should turn off the vehicle and take the keys out of the ignition when leaving the vehicle for any amount of time.

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“This time of year, it is cold outside, people want to warm up their car before they get in it for their drive to work or wherever they have to go,” Garcia said. “But if they do so, they leave the door open, potentially, for someone to come along and get in their vehicle and take off.”

Drivers could face up to a $250 fine. Garcia said the fine is intended to help discourage people from becoming car theft victims.

Garcia said that leaving young kids in an unattended car was an even worse idea.

“For the same reason, somebody can come in and take the vehicle,” she said.

Garcia said having a child in the car makes for a much worse situation.

The law does not apply to cars with a remote starter system. Garcia said in those instances, the doors are automatically locked, which prevents someone from being able to get in.

For motorists who don’t follow the law and find themselves becoming a victim of car theft, Garcia said to call 911 and try and get a physical description. She said not to try to stop the car thief.

“You never know if they have a weapon,” she said.

(Copyright WBGZ Radio / www.AltonDailyNews.com)