Car Keys

Texas Unattended Vehicle Laws

In Texas, leaving your vehicle unattended with keys in the ignition or without a parking brake can be punishable by law. Section 545.404 of Texas Transportation Code defines and regulates certain cases of unattended vehicles:


(a) Except as provided by Subsection (b), an operator may not leave a vehicle unattended without:

(1) stopping the engine;

(2) locking the ignition;

(3) removing the key from the ignition;

(4) setting the parking brake effectively; and

(5) if standing on a grade, turning the front wheels to the curb or side of the highway.

(b) The requirements of Subsections (a)(1), (2), and (3) do not apply to an operator who starts the engine of a vehicle by using a remote starter or other similar device that:

(1) remotely starts the vehicle’s engine without placing the key in the ignition; and

(2) requires the key to be placed in the ignition or physically present in the vehicle before the vehicle can be operated.

Under Texas law you are not permitted to leave your vehicle unattended without stopping the engine and removing your key from the ignition.

Traffic law above only applies to vehicles parked on highways and public roads (as per Sec. 542.001). Unattended vehicles on private property are not subject to this regulation.

Sec. 542.001. VEHICLES ON HIGHWAYS. A provision of this subtitle relating to the operation of a vehicle applies only to the operation of a vehicle on a highway unless the provision specifically applies to a different place.

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Primary purpose of Texas Unattended Vehicle law is to prevent car thefts. You should think twice about leaving your keys in the ignition anywhere in public even if you’re not concerned about your car being stolen.

Violating these laws is considered a Class C misdemeanor carrying up to $500 in fines. With such a large fine it is highly advisable to ensure your vehicle is properly secured and never leave your keys in the ignition.

This article about Texas Unattended Vehicle Laws was last updated in 2024. If any of our information is incomplete or outdated please let us know. Thank you!