Preserving the Environment

5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Let Your Car’s Engine Idle

November 10, 2014
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5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Let Your Car’s Engine Idle
It is a common misconception that it takes more gas to restart your car than to keep it running. David Paul Morris/Getty Images
When it comes to the environment, every second that a car isn't running counts.

It might not seem like a big deal to leave your car’s engine on while waiting to pick someone up, but did you know it’s better for you and the environment if you simply turned the car off?

There’s a common misconception that it takes more gas to restart your car than to keep it running — but that’s simply not true. In fact, if you’re going to idle more than 10 seconds, it’s better to switch off the engine and restart it when you’re ready to go.

As Sustainable America points out, idling is “a crucial economic, health, and environmental issue” and changing this bad driving habit can make a big difference. EcoWatch recently pointed out 10 excellent reasons why you should turn off an idling car, and here are some of our favorites:

1. Get more miles out of your tank
The average American spends 16 minutes a day idling their vehicle, according to this infographic. While you shouldn’t turn off your car in the middle of the road or stopped at an intersection, EcoWatch writes that, for example, “if you idle for five minutes warming up your car in the morning, three minutes at the bank drive-thru and four minutes listening to the end of an NPR story in your driveway, you’ve burned enough gas to drive 24 miles.”

2. Save money
The Ohio Air Quality Development Authority found that the average idle car consumes about 0.156 gallons of gas per hour. Even though that doesn’t sound like a lot, Slate crunched the numbers and found that if you were to cut 10 minutes of idling a day and restart your car four more times a day as a result, you could save around 8.9 gallons of gas a year. Based on today’s gas prices, that’s an extra $30 you get to keep in your pocket. Multiplied by every driver in the U.S., the country as a whole could save about $13 million annually, EcoWatch reports.

3. You could be breaking the law
Idle car bans already exist in about 30 states. In New York state, for example, heavy-duty vehicles (such as diesel trucks and buses) cannot be idle for more than five minutes at a time. In New York City, the anti-idling rule goes even further: cars, taxicabs and buses can not idle outside of the city’s schools for more than a minute because exhaust fumes worsen the quality of air both inside and outside the school, CNN reported.

4. Better air quality
We’ve mentioned before that half of the toxic pollutants in the air are caused by petroleum-chugging motor vehicles. And when your car is idling, it emits just as many harmful emissions as a car on the go. “Every 10 minutes of idling you cut from your life, you’ll save one pound of carbon dioxide — a harmful greenhouse gas — from being released into the atmosphere,” EcoWatch writes.

5. Improved health
Air pollution is linked to asthma attacks, lung disease, allergies, even cancer. Because a lot of idling happens around fast-food drive thrus, the EPA even warned via a tweet to avoid them entirely:  “Although convenient, the idling of your car worsens air quality for you and your kids.” No idling = Better air = Happy lungs

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