Air conditioning in the car: do you really risk a fine?  What the Code says

After several postponements, last year a paragraph of an article of the Highway Code on air conditioning entered into force: this is what it says and when we risk a fine

You want for the heat that is increasing throughout Italy, you want for the economic period that makes us all more sensitive to extra expenses, but for some days the alarm has been growing among automakers for the “air conditioning fine”. That is, the fine for leaving the air conditioning on while the car is stationary, an event that is not at all unlikely in the height of summer, especially in the city, certainly in the center, south and islands. But how are things really? When are we really at risk of a fine and when not? And what is the penalty if we are actually wrong? Some of these answers are simple and a few examples are enough to understand them, others are a bit more cumbersome and must be sought in the meanders of the Highway Code.

AIR CONDITIONING: WHAT THE CDS SAYS

The whole heart of the dispute is article 157 of the Highway Code, which governs stopping, parking and stopping of vehicles. This article, in paragraph 7-bis, clearly states that “It is forbidden to keep the engine running while the vehicle is parked, in order to keep the air conditioning system in operation in the vehicle itself”. The same article provides for a fine for those who keep the engine and air conditioning on during the stop: from 223 to 444 euros.

Paragraph 7-bis of article 157 of the CdS, which says that we cannot keep the engine running to cool the car with the air conditioner while parked, actually came into force on January 1, 2021, after more than a decade of postponements. . A sign that attention to CO2 emissions and fuel waste has only recently become a priority for the legislator. For many years, in fact, the measure was postponed.

STOP, STOP AND PARK

Clearly, in order to interpret this article well and not to be victims of unnecessary alarmism, we must clearly distinguish the concepts of stopping, stopping and stopping. It is a bit of the ABC of the Highway Code, we know, but many ignore this difference and this exposes them to the risk of getting a highly avoidable fine. The CdS, again in article 157, specifies that the term “Arrest” means “the interruption of the vehicle’s running due to traffic requirements”. If we are stuck in traffic and, even for several minutes, we are still or almost stationary and we have the air conditioning on, therefore, at least in theory, no one could contest us anything.

The term “Stop”, on the other hand, means “the temporary suspension of travel even if in an area where parking is not permitted, to allow people to get on or off, or for other very short-term needs”. No one has ever established by law what the “very short duration” corresponds to, but the concept is very clear: the driver must remain in the car, ready to restart and the stop is a matter of seconds. To make people go up and down, therefore, should not be misunderstood with “Love, come down, I’ll wait for you below”. That’s a stop, not a stop.

And we come, therefore, to the term “Sosta” which, according to the Code, means “suspension of the vehicle running over time, with the possibility of removal by the driver”. Every time we get out of the car, therefore, technically that is a stop and we have to turn off the engine (and therefore the air conditioning).

Net of any emergency stops, also provided for by the CdS: if while we are driving we hear a noise coming from the hood, it is clear that we can stop on the roadside and take a break with the engine running and the hood open, to check where it comes from. the noise (spoiler: it is the belt) .Well different is the case in which we get out of the car to enter a shop or someone’s house: in that case we cannot leave the engine running, therefore neither the air conditioning, even if the stop is just a few minutes. In fact, it is already enough time to transform the stop into a stop and expose ourselves to the risk of a hefty fine if we have the air conditioning on.

NOT WORTH WITH ELECTRICS

Finally, a little curiosity: everything we have said so far is valid only for cars with a thermal engine, therefore petrol, diesel, LPG or methane, but not also for electric cars. The basic problem regulated by article 157 of the Highway Code, in fact, is not that motorists leave the air conditioning on, but that of the engine left on to power the air conditioning. And, while it is running, a heat engine pollutes and emits CO2. With the electric, however, the problem does not arise: the air conditioner does not depend on the engine but is connected directly to the traction battery. So much so that many electric cars already offer the driver the convenient function that allows you to activate the air conditioner remotely, in order to find the passenger compartment already cool (or already warm, in winter) when you get into the car. Without risking a fine.



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