Now that winter is well underway, it’s not uncommon to see cars idling throughout the day. To many, idling can seem fairly innocent; however, what most people don’t understand is that idling not only has detrimental effects on your vehicle’s engine and wastes fuel, but idling also emits many harmful emissions into the air as well.
While there are some circumstances where idling is unavoidable, there are many ways drivers can spend less time idling. Here are a few ways to be idle free and contribute to a cleaner, healthier Utah:
1. In School Zones — Unnecessary idling can be extremely dangerous to children’s health. When exposed to elevated levels of pollutants caused by idling, children have an increased risk of developing severe health problems such as asthma, respiratory problems and other serious health risks.
2. At the Drive-Thru — The next time you’re thinking of grabbing food or a coffee, don’t wait in line with your car running. Instead, choose to park and stretch your legs by going inside to order, or consider turning off your vehicle while you wait to eliminate the amount of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are both precursor gases for the formation of PM2.5 during inversions.
3. Outside of the Gym — Exercising at the gym and working toward improving one’s general well-being is important; however, contributing to deteriorating health by letting your engine run in the parking lot is not. If you must take that mid-afternoon nap after your workout, do it inside the gym, not in your car.
4. Remote Start — Idling produces exhaust emissions that release fine particulates into the air and increase the formation of the ozone. So use your remote start wisely, and don’t turn your vehicle on until you are ready to leave.
5. In the Morning — Not only is warming up your car detrimental to the environment but it also shortens your vehicle’s lifespan. Excessive idling can actually damage your engine components, including cylinders, spark plugs and exhaust systems. Most car manufacturers believe that idling more than 30 seconds is not only unnecessary but actually unadvisable.
6. Planning Ahead — If you must drive, time your travel during less congested periods of the day to reduce the amount of PM2.5 that is emitted while idling in traffic. The UDOT Traffic website and mobile app will allow you to see current traffic updates all over the state.
7. Making Trips More Efficient — When possible, rethink your trip to avoid unnecessary travel this winter and help improve Utah’s air quality. Practice these simple ways to reduce the number of emissions produced by idling:
- Teleworking — One of the easiest ways you can contribute to improving Utah’s air is to reduce the number of pollutants by choosing to work remotely. If you don’t have the option to telecommute currently, speak with your employer to see if teleworking could be an option in the future.
- Taking Transit — A great alternative to driving your car is to make use of Utah Transit Authority’s public transportation. Take your next trip using the UTA bus, TRAX or FrontRunner to get to your destination.
- Choosing to TravelWise — Sign up for the TravelWise tracker to see how little changes can make a big difference by setting travel goals, tracking emissions, saving time and improving air quality.
While our air quality is affected by several factors, you hold the power to improve air quality one simple act at a time. If we all work together to make small changes to our current routines, like being idle free, we can make a greater impact in improving the air we breathe.
Learn more about ways to improve Utah’s air through UCAIR’s Air Quality Tools.