One consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic has been fewer people driving their vehicles, so the air is cleaner, which is a good thing. And fewer vehicles are idling because people are not “warming” their vehicles before they drive or parking - idling - at schools and waiting to pick up their children.

At a recent meeting the Berkeley Heights Township Council passed unanimously a resolution encouraging drivers of gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles to turn off their engines as soon as practical if they plan to remain at a location for more than three minutes.

In fact, it’s a state law that is often ignored. But there are good reasons to not let your vehicle idle:

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  • If you are idling, you might as well be burning dollar bills. Vehicles that idle 10 minutes per day waste more than 29 gallons of fuel each year.
  • Will turning off the vehicle to avoid idling result in higher maintenance costs and extra wear and tear for the starter and battery? Actually, the break-even point to offset any incremental maintenance costs, according to Natural Resources Canada, is under 60 seconds.
  • The best way to warm a vehicle is to start it and drive it.
  • Idling engines contribute to pollution. Emissions are still present and harmful even when you can’t see exhaust.
  • In winter conditions, emissions from a cold engine are more than double the normal level. 
  • Moreover, emissions from vehicles can worsen asthma and other health conditions and even can kill. On its website the American Heart Association points out that air pollution, which includes pollution from motor vehicles, increases the risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
  • Unnecessary idling of cars, trucks, and school buses pollutes the air, wastes fuel, and causes excess engine wear.

Diesel vehicles are even worse polluters. The U.S. Argonne National Laboratory estimates that about 20 million barrels of diesel fuel are consumed each year by idling long-haul trucks (estimated truck emissions total about 10 million tons of CO2, 50,000 tons of nitrogen oxides, and 2,000 tons of particulates).

“Help the environment and the health of our community,” says Environmental Commissioner Richard Leister, “tell your family, friends, neighbors and school bus drivers to turn off their vehicles if they are going to be standing more than a couple of minutes.”