It’s a wasteful – and expensive – habit, but we’ve all done it. Waiting for a child outside the pool, running over to the mailbox, stopping somewhere for “just a moment”, or waiting for a friend.  The temptation is always there.  

When it’s hot, we want the air conditioner on. When it’s cold, we just want a little heat.  It may be only for a few minutes, but when we don’t turn off the car, idling becomes more than just a minor annoyance:

  • Idling gets ZERO miles per gallon.

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  • Every two minutes of idling uses the same amount of fuel as driving one mile.

  • Idling cars spew out the same amount of health-damaging pollutants as moving cars, including nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds.

  • Diesel exhaust has now also been found to be carcinogenic, with links to lung and bladder cancer.

Thousands of gallons of gas are wasted each day, and millions of particles pollute the air we breathe, all due to either a desire for comfort or a simple lack of attention. Yet the simple act of letting your car sit and idle actually damages the health of those you know – and those you don’t know.

Healthier Living

When you “Turn the Key, Be Idle Free!” you’re doing a lot more than you think you are.  You’re saving dollars and the environment. – And a healthier environment translates directly into healthier individuals.

In the summer months, extreme weather conditions can be additional factors for those with asthma.  Children, especially, may already be prone to asthma attacks during this time.  Releasing additional exhaust fumes actively contributes to increased incidences of asthma, allergies and other breathing disorders, and to cancers and premature death.

“Children, seniors, and anyone with asthma or other health issues are particularly vulnerable to the health dangers of exhaust fumes,” explained Sue Fershing, Chair of the Livingston Recycling and Reclamation Committee.  “The current New Jersey State law prohibits vehicles from idling for more than three minutes, and studies have shown that anti-idling policies save fuel, prolong engine life, and improve air quality.”

30 Seconds or Less

In the winter months, a car only requires 30 seconds to warm the engine.  In the summer, it’s even less.  Not only that, an engine warms up twice as quickly when the car is being driven then when it’s standing still.  Excess idling wears down engine parts more quickly, too. Over time, worn cylinders, spark plugs, and exhaust systems will degrade your engine’s performance, reducing mileage and increasing fuel use.

Idling a car in a garage, even with the door open, is extremely dangerous and exposes you and your family to carbon monoxide and other poisonous gases. If the garage is attached, those fumes can also enter the house.

Eco-Friendly Can Be Easy

Turning off the car for a few minutes while waiting for someone is obviously eco-friendly – and it’s easy to do. “In the warmer weather, try to park in the shade and open the windows for a breeze. When it’s really hot out, car temperatures soar quickly; you can step outside for some fresh air, or stop in on a local business – it will no doubt be cooler in there, you won’t have to keep your car idling,” suggests Fershing. “The fact is that our cars’ climate control systems work pretty quickly. One turn of a key is a small action with a big payoff:  healthier kids, healthier adults, and a healthier community.”

Livingston Township has been designated as a Tree City USA and is Sustainable Jersey Certified. For the Green Guide to Livingston, or for more information on Livingston’s Green Team, eco-friendly initiatives, or related ordinances or resolutions visit  

Don’t Take Chances

The summer heat can be dangerous.  Try to avoid being outside during the hottest part of the day.  If you are going out, be sure that your car won’t be the only place where you can to stay cool.  Drink lots of fluids, be sure to replace the salt and minerals you lose when you sweat, wear light clothing, slow down, and pace your physical activities.  And never, ever, leave a child or pet in the car – even for a short time.

For additional tips and information on staying cool and healthy during the summer heat, please visit, select “Health” under the Departments heading, and click “Health Department Offers Heat Wave Safety Tips” on the Health Department home page.