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No Idling

July 29, 2010

By Jennifer Chaky

How has the devastating BP oil spill changed your habits? As I was reading about the oil spill in China this morning, I looked out my window and saw a pick-up truck in the loading zone, idling away for about ten minutes as the driver sat talking to his passenger. The windows were down on both sides of the truck so I could see that the running vehicle was not powering the a/c.

I see scenes like this every day multiple times.  It’s easy to let your car run unnecessarily–while looking for your purse, getting the kids settled, talking on the cell phone…. There are many things to think about, and your running car is usually the last thing to consider. But you can prevent more than 40lbs of excess pollution from going into the air each year by turning off your engine if you will be sitting for more than 30 seconds.

It is estimated that each day, Americans waste approximately 3.8 million gallons of gasoline by voluntarily idling their cars. Now, we all know how important it is to get our country off our “oil addiction” so eliminating “idle-waste” is a great way to help that. As an added benefit, you will be helping those with asthma. Asthma rates have gone up 15% in the last twenty years and carbon dioxide is the number one contributing factor. Idling vehicles do cause more of a burden, and until electric cars are mainstream, we can do our part by driving only when we must and not leaving our cars running when we are not driving.

Many people think that restarting your car takes more fuel than letting it run but this is not true unless your car is a 1980 model or earlier. In fact, in parts of Germany it is so encouraged to turn off your car, even when stopped at lights, that the traffic lights flash for a few seconds to let you know that it’s time to turn the engine back on. And in New Jersey and New York, it’s illegal to let your car idle for more than 3 minutes.

Also, avoid going through drive-thru windows. Parking your car and walking in instead will save many minutes of idling. And if you do not drive yourself, encourage others who you notice idling by letting them know how much they can be helping the air quality by turning off the engine.

So this should be easy–all it takes is a little consideration and the turn of a key. And in turn for conscientious driving you can expect less trips to the gas station–which means less support to the oil industry that is killing our oceans!

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