Is it illegal to leave your car windows open?


You might remember a family member who would drive down the street, leave their keys in the ignition and the windows down, walk away from their car and into the shops, and return to find their vehicle still sitting where it was, without a fine flapping from underneath one of the windscreen wipers.

Those days are long gone. 

  • It may be against the law to leave your car’s windows open if you’re not near it
  • Fines vary for the offence
  • Leaving your car unlocked can also get you in trouble

These days, in most parts of Australia, it’s illegal to leave your car unlocked, or your windows down. And don’t even think about leaving your keys in the ignition. 

It’s all apparently in the aim of lowering car theft rates. Making it harder to steal cars means there’s presumably less stolen car paperwork to be done, whereas fining a driver for leaving the windows down is seen as a “safety” measure.

To be clear, you are allowed to leave your windows down a smidge. In some jurisdictions it’s two centimetres, while others allow up to 5cm leeway.

Here’s a rundown of the rules across Australia:

New South Wales 

In NSW you can leave your car’s window down 2cm, but you cannot leave the car running, or leave the windows down, or leave the car unlocked, or leave anyone aged 16 or under in the car, or leave the key in the ignition, if you’re going to be more than three metres away from the car.

If the windows can be “secured”, they must be. Same goes for doors, if they can be locked, they have to be.

Fines for failure to secure your car may be applicable ($129).

Queensland

Same rules as NSW, but 5cm allowable window gap. Fines up to 20 penalty units – or a staggering maximum penalty of $3096. It’d have to be a cranky cop to try on that level of penalty. 

Victoria

While there have been stories of people being fined for leaving their car windows down in Vic, the wording in the Road Safety Penalties documentation doesn’t state anything of the sort to be penalty-worthy.

“Leave motor vehicle unattended with keys in ignition, motor running, brakes not secured or doors unlocked” – no mention of windows, there – yet the fine for that offence could cost you $192.31.

Reports suggest that Victoria has an allowance of 5cm for leaving your windows down.

South Australia

If you don’t want to have to lock your car or put the windows up, SA is your place.

Under the state’s Road Traffic (Road Rules—Ancillary and Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2014, it is stated that “Drivers in South Australia are exempt from rule 213 (Making a motor vehicle secure)”.

Tasmania 

Much the same as some of the other states, in that it’s the law to switch off the car, remove the key from the ignition and make sure you don’t leave any minors (16 or under) in the car if you’re going to be more than three metres from the vehicle. 

Also clearly stated in the rule: you must make sure the doors are locked, and the windows are secured (a window is ‘secure’ even if it is open by up to 2 centimetres). Fine: $97.50.

Western Australia

Again, the rules in WA are much the same: three metres from the car, you need to secure the doors and windows. The fine is $50.

But there’s a stipulation that, if you’re going to pay for parking, you don’t need to lock the car and put the windows up.

ACT

Make sure you secure your car when you’re in the ACT. It follows much the same rules as the rest of the states – if you’re more than three away the windows must be up and the doors must be locked. But it has a huge potential fine for those who don’t do it – 20 penalty units, or $3200.

NT

There doesn’t appear to be any specific law around vehicle security in the Northern Territory, but Neighbourhood Watch NT suggests that drivers always lock their doors and put their windows up, and never leave the keys in the ignition.

Not intended as legal advice. Check with the relevant roads authority in your state or territory.





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