The “I Turn It Off” Initiative and the Dangers of Idling

Those who have owned or operated a motor vehicle have likely come across a situation where they are idling in their car. Whether you are waiting to pick up your child from school, sitting in a fast-food line, warming up your car in the morning, or any other situation where you might leave your vehicle on and idling for longer than 10 seconds, there is more fuel being wasted than you may realize. Common things like low tire pressure may affect your fuel mileage, but idling can also be extremely detrimental for fuel consumption and pollution. Our friends at Sustainable America are dedicated to helping communities raise awareness of the dangers of allowing a vehicle to idle for longer than 10 seconds for people in the community and the environment. They have developed an Anti-Idling Toolkit to provide you the knowledge and resources you need to spread the message to turn off vehicles and work to reduce the dangers inherent in the act of idling.

The Dangers of Idling

It is often said that turning off a car’s engine rather than letting it idle is bad for the car’s starter or wastes gas when stopping and restarting the vehicle in a short period of time. Research has shown that more gas is wasted in 10 seconds of idling than is used when turning off and restarting the car. There are also several other concerns with idling in addition to the waste of gas:
  • Dangerous pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and particulate matter are released in a hot spot around your car as it idles. These pollutants have been linked to increases in asthma, allergies, heart and lung disease, and cancer.
  • Contributions to climate change include about 30 million tons of CO2 generated by idling vehicles.
  • Idling can damage engine components as fuel residue builds up on cylinder walls and increases fuel consumption.
  • Damaging the engine by idling to warm up the car. The cabin may become contaminated by pollutants, and the buildup of deposits from idling can cause engine damage. Cars warm up more quickly while driving, not idling.
If a car is going to be stopped for longer than 10 seconds, it is better to turn it off than to be allowed to idle. The dangers of idling are real and long-lasting, and that is why the anti-idling message ought to be spread far and wide.

How to Share the Importance of Reducing Idling in Your Community

There are many ways to share the importance of reducing the amount of vehicle idling in your community. First and foremost, you can set an example with your vehicle. From sitting in a driveway to waiting in line at a drive-thru, you can start to demonstrate the importance of reducing idling by shutting off your car. Another way is to spread the word on social media outlets like Facebook and the neighborhood NextDoor application. Short posts can provide information about idling dangers and how to prevent these dangers. Check out Sustainable America’s Anti-Idling toolkit for helpful information and guides you can use when spreading the message of turning off the vehicle and preventing the accumulation of those hazardous fumes.