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10 Reasons to Turn Off an Idling Car

10 Reasons to Turn Off an Idling Car

It happens, we know. You’re picking up a friend, waiting for a food order or just trying to warm up your car on cold morning—and you leave it running for a little while. It’s easy to let those minutes tick by, but getting into the habit of turning your car off when you’ll be idle for more than 10 seconds can make a big difference.

Here’s why:

1. It saves gas: If you idle for 5 minutes warming up your car in the morning, 3 minutes at the bank drive-thru and 4 minutes listening to the end of an NPR story in your driveway, you’ve burned enough gas to drive 24 miles.

2. It saves money: Americans spend a whopping $13 million every day on unnecessary idling. (That’s 3.8 million gallons of fuel, wasted!) Also, idling is actually illegal in some states, and violators can pay steep fines if caught.

3. It saves the planet: For 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.

4. It makes us healthier: Idling is linked to increases in asthma, allergies, heart and lung disease and cancer. Kids are especially vulnerable because they inhale more air per pound of body weight, and lots of idling happens near schools.

5. It makes us smarter: Breathing exhaust fumes can damage brain cells and may be linked to autism. A study in New York City showed that kids with a high exposure to combustion engine byproducts had lower IQs by age 5.

6. It’s good for your engine: Idling can damage engine components. According to the California Energy Commission, “Fuel is only partially combusted when idling because an engine does not operate at its peak temperature. This leads to the build up of fuel residues on cylinder walls that can damage engine components and increase fuel consumption.” And did you know that today’s cars warm up more efficiently when they’re driving than sitting in a driveway? They do.

7. It’s quieter: Noise is pollution, too.

8. It’s contagious: Turning off the car sets a good example for your kids and other passengers, and gives a chance for you to educate them about the dangers of idling.

9. It doesn’t stink: Do you enjoy breathing in exhaust fumes? Yuck.

10. It’s easy: Just turn the key when you’ll be stopped for more than 10 seconds. That’s all there is to it.

Sustainable America is committed to helping the United States reduce its oil consumption by 50 percent by 2035. Big changes like more electric vehicles and smarter traffic technology are necessary to getting there, but conservation measures like hypermilingecodriving and curbing idling are all important ways individuals can do their part on a daily basis. Be part of the solution by taking our pledge to Turn It Off when you’ll be idle for more than 10 seconds. You can even order a bumper sticker so you can help spread the anti-idling message in your community.

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A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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