Idling Law, Hard to Enforce, Important to Heed


GLEN ROCK - Gearing up for a spring education program about the anti-idling law passed in 2010, local officials agree the law is hard to enforce albeit important to follow.

Sylvia Rabacchi of the Glen Rock Environmental Commission said her group did an anti-idling campaign "a few years ago around town and at all schools," and they are planning to do another one this spring.

The law prohibits idling for more than three minutes, Fair Lawn Mayor Lisa Swain said. The Fair Lawn Green Team has targeted schools to educate parents, as well as children, about adhering to the law.

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"It causes pollution and is especially harmful to children," Swain said. "In addition, it wastes money on gas."

Limited idling can be especially hard in the winter months when temperatures dip to the single digits, as they have in recent weeks. Commercial drivers may find it difficult to stay warm if they constantly have to shut off trucks to make deliveries.

The law, however, provides for some exceptions.

According the New Jersey State Department of Environmental Protection, the law prohibits the idling of a gasoline or diesel powered motor vehicle for longer than three minutes except when stuck in traffic or if the engine is needed to engage in "mechanical operation other than propulsion," for example, to power a lift gate. 

Penalties for non-compliance begin at $100 for a first offense and go as high as $1,000 for commercial vehicles and $1,500 for passenger vehicles.

"Of course we would love for the anti-idling ordinance and state law to be enforced to make the campaign effective," Rabacchi said.

Glen Rock Police Chief Dean Ackermann said the law is less about enforcement and more about education.

"The primary purpose of the no-idling regulations [is] to help the public understand that turning off their vehicles is better for the environment," Ackermann said. "Beyond public awareness, the state’s no-idling law is not something that can be effectively enforced."

Ackermann said, "Statewide, there are fewer than 300 summonses a year issued, most of which are dismissed in court as idling times are nearly impossible to prove. 

"Anyone who is claiming that the law is being more tightly enforced is not a part of the law enforcement community."

In fact, the DEP states not all idling complaints result in a violation.

According to its fact sheet, "In order to verify a complaint and issue an enforcement action, an investigation must be performed and the investigator must verify that the idling exceeds the three-minute limit and is not allowed by one of the exceptions in the idling rule."

Also, according to the DEP, "the Department can not enforce th idling rule on the public roadways or on residential property."

Idling on the public roadways can be enforced, however, by state and local police.

Ackermann said the average local police department has limited resources with only a small number of officers on patrol at any time.  

"The day-to-day traffic enforcement priority is to target moving violations such as speeding, careless driving, failure to stop for pedestrians, to keep traffic moving and to answer calls for service," he said.

"Unlike DWI and Seat Belt initiatives where enforcement grants are provided, no resources or funding is available to local police departments to engage no-idling efforts," Ackermann said. "The average municipal law enforcement agency does not have the personnel or time to devote to enforcing a law where it is nearly impossible to secure a conviction."

"Having an officer devote his or her undivided attention to a specific idling vehicle and time it for three full minutes without being interrupted is completely impractical," Ackermann said.




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