Idle Thoughts

The vehicles around us–cars, trucks, buses–are major sources of air pollution, which is an irritant to many of us, and a serious threat to those with health conditions such as asthma, emphysema, or allergies. Air pollution is often concentrated in areas where vehicles idle, such as school pick up/drop off zones and drive-thrus. One thing we can all do to improve our air quality is cut back on vehicle idling. Consider these facts:
  • Ten seconds of idling uses more fuel than restarting your engine.
  • Turning your engine off when parked for more than 10 seconds saves fuel costs.
  • Even in winter, most of today’s engines need no more than 30 seconds to warm up before driving.
September is “Idle Free Awareness Month” across the state, and this year, Provo City is stepping up its participation. Here are some of the things we’re working on with the help of our new Sustainability Committee and the Provo City School District:
  • We’ve reminded all city employees of our idle reduction policy, which prohibits letting a vehicle warm up for more than five minutes or idle for more than 10 seconds, except in very limited situations.
  • School district bus drivers have all signed a pledge to limit idling time in school bus loading and unloading areas, turn off engines in the school yard whenever possible, and learn about other idle reduction strategies.
  • There will soon be signs in every school parking lot reminding drivers to “turn the key, be idle free.” 
  • Volunteers will pass out idle reduction literature to parents as they drop their kids off at school. I’ll be helping at Timpview High School on Thursday, September 1, starting at 7 a.m.
  • Later that morning, I’ll join Lt. Governor Bell and other Utah mayors in an Idle Free Awareness Month press conference at Mountain View Elementary in Salt Lake City.
  • Volunteers organized by the Sustainability Committee will staff a booth with bi-lingual idle reduction literature at the Latino Festival this weekend, Sept. 2, 3, and 5. (They could use more volunteers. If you’re interested, contact George Handley at 801-616-6441 or
Compared to other cities across the country, we rank highly in many areas, but not in air quality. Let’s do something about that. One vehicle won’t change much, but thousands will. Be one of the first to make a difference. Turn off your car while waiting to pick someone up. Park and go inside instead of using the drive-thru. Feel free to pass this message along and read more about idle reduction on the Idle Free Utah website.
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