OPINION|DRIVETIME MAHATMA Maybe it’s time to rethink the unattended vehicle regulation

Dear Mahatma: A friend who reads your column says he thinks you wrote that it's illegal to leave your car running if you're not inside. Is this correct? If so, are drivers of late-model cars not supposed to use their remote start devices? -- Old Friend and Bookend

Dear Friend: It's been a few years -- 2010 -- since a mayor of Little Rock, since retired from the job, left his keys in his parked car in downtown. It wasn't running, but it sure was stolen.

The incident gave a lot of people, not just us, an opportunity to think about Arkansas Code Annotated 27-51-1306, "Unattended motor vehicles."

It says no driver shall leave a vehicle unattended "without first stopping the engine, locking the ignition, and removing the key, or, when standing upon any perceptible grade, without effectively setting the brake and turning the front wheels to the curb or side of the highway."

Turning the wheels on a grade? Good idea. Probably not done much in practice. Engaging the parking brake? A habit we once had but no longer. Removing the key? Always.

Wait a minute -- locking the ignition? The steering wheel on our truck locks, if it's wiggled to one side or the other. That effectively locks the ignition. Because the key must be inserted and the steering wheel turned for the whole shebang to unlock.

Do we lock the steering wheel on a regular basis? Um, maybe. Or maybe not.

As for the remote, maybe it's time the Legislature updated the statute to reflect the newer technology.

Is a remotely started vehicle "unattended?" We say no, at least on our truck. We can start it remotely, but the lock button on the fob must first be pressed. And the key inserted to put the vehicle in gear. All of these actions conflict with definition of "unattended."

Quoting Arkansas' own Collin Raye: That's our story, and we're sticking to it.

Now, about that statement regarding a friend who reads this column. We encourage everyone to read this column, which this month marks 17 years. Yes, we may eventually run out of fingers and toes.

Vanity plate seen on Interstate 30 near Bryant: FITCHIC.

. . .

On a different topic, here's the (slightly belated) news on improvements on the Interstate 430 bridge. Our information comes from Tony Evans, engineer for District 6 of the Arkansas Department of Transportation.

We asked Evans about the new managed auxiliary lanes, which add a fourth lane to the bridge at certain times.

The lanes were put in test mode March 15, and the system was put into full operation at 6:30 a.m. March 27.

Southbound auxiliary lanes are now open from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. That serves traffic from Maumelle heading into west Little Rock. The reverse happens in the afternoon from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Are there any other interstates in the district under consideration for auxiliary lanes? Not to Evans' knowledge.

Vanity plate: HLALUYA. Amen, brother.