How often is your car on but not moving? The amount of time our vehicles are left idling is increasing every year. From the school parking lot to the drive-through, we waste large amounts of fuel and expel too much carbon dioxide for no valid reason. The U.S. Department of Energy reports an estimated 6 billion gallons of fuel annually is wasted from idling vehicles.
Stop by a local school about 30 minutes before the kids are let out, and you are bound to see cars lined up. The cars, many SUVs and trucks here in Texas, are waiting for their kids inside air conditioned idling cars. School buses and parents waiting in idling vehicles is not only damaging the environment but also has an effect on the kids. Kids breathe more air in relation to their body weight than adults and are therefore more susceptible to air pollution. Vehicle emissions have been linked to respiratory problems and triggering severe asthma attacks in children. For better air quality consider turning off the vehicle and finding a spot to wait in the shade.
The myth that your car takes more energy to shut down and turn back on is not accurate. Studies have shown a light duty car that idles for more than 10 seconds burns more fuel and emits more greenhouse gases than shutting down the engine and starting it again. Ten seconds. Modern cars do not need long periods of time to warm up, even in cold temperatures. The best way to warm up your car, is to drive it.
But what about taking the bus? It takes less energy for kids to take the bus than it does for individual cars to drop off and pick up children. Buses should also not be idling. The Environmental Protection Agency has determined that diesel exhaust is a likely human carcinogen and can contribute to other acute and chronic health concerns. Buses can not idle for more than thirty minutes under the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s (TCEQ) Idling Limitation Rule (EngineOffNorthTexas.org). And if you see a car or bus idling excessively, you can report them by calling 1-877-NTX-IDLE or talk to your school and order free signage from the EngineOffNorthTexas.org to encourage your community to turn off their vehicles.
Sometimes idling can’t be avoided such as in traffic congestion. The relatively new mobile app, Waze, helps avoid traffic congestion and keeps you moving, reducing your commute and carbon emissions. How you drive also impacts the amount of greenhouse gases your car emits. To save gas and reduce emissions try eco-friendly driving which works no matter the make and model of your vehicle. Follow simple tips such as the following: drive smooth by anticipating changes in the traffic early to avoid jerky braking and acceleration; shift gears sooner to maintain the vehicle in an optimum revolution range; and drive the speed limit.
Companies are coming up with technology advances that reduce idling emissions in cars and trucks. Hybrid, electric and new diesel engines conserve energy by shutting off when not needed (red lights, stop signs and other idling situations). Trucking companies have had to come up with creative ways to be reduce idling. Large trucks often idle in rest areas to provide power for heat, air conditioning, refrigeration and other systems in their cabs, burning billions of gallons of diesel each year. Rest areas now offer power outlets for truck usage which wastes less energy than idling, while some trucks are equipped with truck mounted systems that cool or heat the cab without idling.
People often ask me what is a simple way they can help the environment or be more healthy? A simple answer is, Don’t idle. Next time you are thinking about getting fast food, or stopping at your bank, park your car and go inside to avoid idling in the drive-through. It’s a quick easy way you can make a difference for our health and the environment.
As seen in the Katy Trail Weekly.