This post was written by Kelly Picarsic
Have you ever left your car engine idling for more than a minute while waiting to pick up your child or sitting at a drive-thru window? Many of us have. And most of us don’t grasp the harm that can be done during those 60 short seconds. Idling increases the amount of preventable pollution released into the air and degrades our region’s already fragile air quality. In its 2011 State of the Air report, the American Lung Association gave the Charlotte-Metro region a grade “F” and ranked the city 10th smoggiest in the nation. Vehicle emissions from cars and trucks are one of the biggest contributors to Mecklenburg County’s air quality problem. According to the NC Division of Air Quality, and contrary to popular belief, idling a car for just 10 seconds uses more fuel than turning the engine off and restarting it. Turning off your engine while waiting saves you money and improves the air your children breathe.
Children Most Vulnerable
Vehicle emissions alone harm our health, but add summertime heat to the mixture, and you’ve ‘baked up’ another, more dangerous problem – ozone pollution. Ground-level ozone pollution is formed by a chemical reaction between nitrogen oxides (NOx) emitted from cars and trucks, sunlight and hot weather. Ozone pollution contains tiny particles that penetrate deep into the lungs and irritate the respiratory system, exacerbating existing asthma. Children are the most vulnerable: their lungs are still developing, and they breathe faster than adults, taking in more dirty air. With over 139,000 children in North Carolina suffering from asthma, it rates as the most prevalent chronic illness in children and the number one reason for school absences.
Ironically, the most common place to find excessive idling is at school, where parents wait to pick up students. To reduce air pollution and to save money and fuel, all North Carolina school systems must have an idle-reduction policy for school buses. With the help of Centralina Council of Governments and Clean Air Carolina, Charlotte area school systems have installed “Turn Off Your Engine” signs in bus lots and carpool lanes to remind drivers, including parents, not to idle on school property.
So the next time you pull into the carpool line or up to a drive-thru window, remember that every second you sit idle, you are wasting gas and degrading North Carolina’s air quality. And if that’s not enough, remember the 139,000+ other reasons to turn your engine off.
Image: Clean Air Carolina