Idling: Why Do We Do It?
A recently passed New York City law cuts down the acceptable limit of vehicle idling time in school zones from 3 minutes to 1 minute. According to an AP report, the law also gives additional city agencies the ability to issue violations and creates a way for officials to track those violations.
Idling in school zones is not a city problem, only. Take a look at any suburban grammar school, like the one my sons attend, and you’ll see an after school mess of idling cars and school buses. What does this say about our culture?
- We aren’t concerned about the waste of our natural resources?
- We’ve got money to burn in our gas tanks?
- We don’t care about the pollution we’re creating, even when it’s harming our children?
- We’re too darn lazy to turn our car engines off?
Yep, all of the above.
It’s not just around schools. We’ve got drive-thru banks, fast food restaurants, coffee shops, pharmacies, beer distributors and even dry cleaners. We don’t like to get out of our cars, let alone turn off their engines. The whole ridiculousness of how much idling we do hit me last spring, and I wrote a post about it on my personal blog, A Little Greener Every Day. One of my readers, who is from Scotland, responded with this:
You have drive-thru banks???
No, really, you have drive-thru banks???
My flabber has been gasted!
Apparently, some cultures don’t find it unreasonable to actually park the car, turn it off, and get out. In our culture, it’s all about convenience. That’s why we idle our vehicles. We think it’s more convenient to let them idle, and darn it, we work hard and we deserve convenience.
Now, I want you to think long and hard about this. How inconvenient is it, really, for you to turn your car off and then back on again? It’s what? A turn of a key? A push of a button?
I’m not saying you even have to get out of the car. If you’re in the drive-thru, just turn the engine off. Believe me, I am not going to begrudge a mom with three kids securely strapped in their car seats her ability to stay in the car to grab a cup of coffee or a senior citizen who has trouble walking the ability to go through the bank drive-thru.
I know if you’re my age or older (maybe even a little younger) that when you learned to drive your dad told you it takes more gas to turn the engine on and off than it does for the car to idle for a minute or two. He wasn’t lying to you, but technology has changed. That may have been true of the 1963 Chevy Impala that I learned to drive in, but that’s not the case with today’s cars.
You are wasting gas when you idle, even for one minute. You are creating pollution. You are spewing money out the exhuast pipe. You are sending the message that convenience is more important than conservation.
Let’s not wait for more laws like the one in New York City to have to get passed before we do something as simple as turning off our engines. Let’s just do it. It’s so simple. It’s really not inconvenient at all. And before long, maybe we’ll be asking, “Remember when we all used to idle our cars, why did we do that?”
Image credit: TheTruthAbout under creative commons license