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Stop idling for more than 30 seconds

Simply turning off your vehicle every time you’re stopped for more than 30 seconds can prevent 1,200 pounds of carbon dioxide pollution from entering the air each year.

How do I do this?

It’s as easy as turning a key!  If you are sitting in the same spot for more than 30 seconds, turn your engine off. Some of the most common places people over-idle are in ferry lines, schools, drive-throughs (banks, fast food restaurants, pharmacies and coffee stands) construction backups, or while warming up the car in the morning. Need convincing?  Check out the “Why should I do this” section for more information and some common myths associated with idling.

Why should I do this?

Just one hour of idling burns up to a gallon of fuel and produces approximately 20 pounds of carbon dioxide pollution. Vehicle exhaust contains a nasty mix of small particles and chemicals that are classified as “hazardous air pollutants” under the Clean Air Act. Breathing vehicle exhaust increases the risk of cancer, heart and lung disease, asthma and allergies.

Somehow shutting off your engine rather than idling has gotten a bad rap. We’d like to dispel some myths associated with idling:

  • Myth #1: The engine should be warmed up before driving. Fact: Idling is not an effective way to warm up your vehicle, even in cold weather. The best way to do this is to drive the vehicle. With today's modern engines, you need no more than 30 seconds of idling on winter days before driving away.
  • Myth #2: Idling is good for your engine. Fact: Excessive idling can actually damage your engine components. Fuel doesn’t undergo complete combustion, leaving spark plugs dirty and contaminating engine oil.
  • Myth #3: Shutting off and restarting your vehicle is hard on the engine and uses more gas than if you leave it running. Fact: Frequent restarting has little impact on engine components like the battery and the starter motor. Component wear caused by restarting the engine is estimated to add $10 per year to the cost of driving, money that will likely be recovered several times over in fuel savings from reduced idling. The bottom line is that more than ten seconds of idling uses more fuel than restarting the engine.(1)

If your vehicle gets 25 miles per gallon, you could prevent over 1000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions every year by reducing your idling.


Drive less aggressively

Try to be smooth and gradual in your accelerations and anticipate lights to maximize coasting and avoid rapid braking. You’ll notice a reduction in gas mileage and on your stress level.

How do I do this?

Your vehicle runs most efficiently while maintaining its speed or coasting. You use the most fuel during acceleration and the faster you accelerate, the more fuel you use. If you have a tachometer try to keep your RPMs low as you accelerate by being light on the gas pedal and shifting gears often. Anticipate lights so you can gradually slow down or coast up to them rather than accelerating until the last moment. Also, keep track of your gas mileage so you know what driving conditions to avoid.

Why should I do this?

Driving aggressively can reduce your gas mileage by as much as 33%. Your vehicle uses significantly more gas during acceleration and when your engine is running at high RPMs. Aggressive driving also leads to more accidents and stress. Driving friendly is better for the environment, your wallet and your overall mental health.

Reduce your highway cruising speed

Rather than “taking your five” and going 4-5 mph over the limit, drive at or below the speed limit and maintain a constant speed. Most cars operate most efficiently at 55-60 miles per hour. In fact, you can assume that each 5 miles per hour you drive over 60 is like paying an additional $0.20 per gallon for gas.

How do I do this?

We know it is not easy or always safe to drive slower, especially on the interstate. Instead of driving dangerously slow, try to use your cruise control or maintain a constant speed and make sure you aren’t always speeding.

You could also take the scenic route. Most state highways have 50 to 60 miles per hour speed limits and are sometimes more direct. Take the slow road and you will actually be cutting down on your gas consumption as long as the actual miles traveled is the same or less.

Keep track of your gas mileage and try to compare your fuel economy at various speeds, the difference can be huge.   

Why should I do this?

Fuel Economy (mpg)

Nearly all vehicles get optimal gas mileage around 55 - 60 miles per hour. Fuel efficiency generally falls off sharply above 60 miles per hour (see graph) - that means that “highway” miles per gallon estimates are not accurate for driving 70-80 miles per hour down the freeway.

Simply reducing your cruising speed from 70 miles per hour to 60 could boost your gas mileage by 15 - 20% or around 5 miles per gallon. That could save you an entire tank of gas on a road trip!  It also adds up to a reduction of over 630 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions over the course of a year. In fact, lowering the speed limit was even part of our national energy conservation policy during the energy crisis in the early 70s. Taking it down a notch on the freeway can limit wear and tear on your vehicle and is generally safer.




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Jun. 1, 2008 at 11:26 PM

Okay, I totally agree w/ the first 2.

#1  I am constantly telling my sister to turn her van off.  She comes to my house and leaves it idling w/ the a/c on and kids inside while she chats for up to half an hour.  Then she complains about never having any gas.  Duh!  I told her about the 30 sec. thing, and she was like, I thought it was 5 minutes? 

#2, I HATE stoplights.  When I drive Capital Blvd. in Raleigh, I have a method of driving where I never have to stop at stoplights unless it's on a weekend and all the traffic messes up my method.

#3.  I can't drive 55!  LOL

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Jun. 2, 2008 at 1:16 PM If someone leaves me in their car while they "run in quickly" to do something, I turn their car off.  It drives me insane.

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Jun. 9, 2008 at 5:53 PM If you left your car running unattended around here, you wouldn't have a car to come back to.

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Jun. 9, 2008 at 8:25 PM J-M, seriously.  I can't stand that my husband "warms up" our car in the driveway.  We're in a "safe" neighborhood, but it's such a waste of gas and totally asking for our car to be stolen.

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