As winter quickly approaches, more and more people will go out an extra 15 minutes before work to warm up their car. No one likes getting into their frost-covered car and sitting down into frozen seats, and although warming up your car makes things a little more pleasant in the morning, it may not be a realistic part of your daily routine any longer. As evidence of climate change and increased pollution, cars remain a major area of concern. While it is not reasonable or even hopeful to expect people to drive their cars any less than they do now, it is pragmatic to focus on a smaller aspect of car pollution that can still actually make a difference.
This issue is idling.
Idling takes place in public areas everyday. People leave their vehicles running in drive-thrus, waiting to pick up kids at school, bus stops, delivery trucks, and in loading zones. One of the most common occurrences of idling happens during the winter months because of ice, snow, and cold weather. It may seem like shutting off the car for a few precious minutes wouldn't make any difference, but it's essential that we realize the environmental and economical benefits to reduced engine idling.
There are plenty of negative factors to engine idling that cannot be ignored. Idling wastes money. Plain and simple. Some people argue that it takes more gas to start your car than it does to leave it running. The truth is, after ten seconds of idling, the cost of starting the car is exceeded. Even in Vermont winter weather, we always think that the car needs to warm up before we can take it for a spin. The facts are, in temperatures above 0 degrees, an engine needs about 30 seconds to a minute before it is ready to drive. Idling in the U. S. wastes an estimated 6 billion gallons of fuel annually. The big driving businesses already have it figured out. UPS sets the standards high with their strict, no-idling policy. Each year they save $12 million on fuel alone from eliminating idling.
On top of wasting money, idling adds to many other detrimental issues. The fumes and chemicals emitted from idling are direct causes of respiratory illnesses. The carbon dioxide emitted while idling is a completely unnecessary contribution that accelerates climate change and the depletion of the atmosphere. Idling is simply burning gas without going anywhere. If we are going to continue to rely on fossil fuels as our source of fuel, then it makes no sense to burn them up in a manner that completely wastes the fuels. The last, and probably most convincing factor that would deter you from idling your vehicle is that it will soon be against the law. The Vermont anti-idling law comes into affect on May 1, 2014. From that day forward, it will be against the law to idle for more than five minutes within a 60-minute period. On top of it being morally and environmentally wrong to let your engine idle, now the public has the incentive to avoid punishment by the law.
One idea I must bring up is, that although it will soon be the law, it will be difficult to effectively enforce across the state. That's why these environmental and economic factors go so well with this issue and its political aspect in becoming a law. Even if it will be possible to avoid a ticket from the police, we know that it's more than a traffic violation. I hope to bring public awareness of how serious the effects of idling are but also how easy it is to avoid them all together.
When it comes to idling, we need to be conscious of it whether police are able to enforce the law or not. It is important that people know the facts and are aware because at this point in time, every little effort we make can help. You may be able to get away with letting your car sit and run, but I hope now you think twice about it. In the end, it might not be something you want to get away with.
Chris Antonez is a recent graduate of Burr and Burton Academy and is currently enrolled at Skidmore College in Saratoga, N.Y.