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Idle Threats: Dangers of Leaving Cars Idling
By Jackie Giordano
Posted: 2024-06-01T12:59:33Z

Want to know one simple thing YOU can DO to benefit the environment?

Don’t sit in your car with the engine idling. The temptation is understandable. You’re just picking up a take-out order, sending a text, or waiting for someone who’ll be back in ten minutes. How bad could that be?

Very bad, as it turns out.

Letting your engine run pollutes the air, wastes fuel, and contributes to global warming. It generates soot and exhaust fumes that create smog, damage plants, and exacerbate asthma, allergies, and cardiovascular disease.

It’s also bad for your vehicle, adding wear and tear to your engine and corroding the exhaust system. And it’s unnecessary. Idling for more than 10 seconds uses more fuel and emits more CO2 than stopping and restarting the engine, and warming your car on even the coldest days requires no more than 30 seconds of gentle idling.

So, what can you do? Unless you’re in traffic, turn off your engine if you’re stopping for more than 10 seconds. Warm up your car by driving it. Skip the pick-up line: go inside to fetch your order. Wait until you’re out of the car to look at your phone. Every little bit helps. Think of it this way: idling just 15 minutes a day burns over 29 gallons of gas per year—and gets you nowhere.

Note to EV drivers: you do not get a free pass! True, polluting emissions are not coming out of your tailpipe, but they are coming from the power plants that charge your battery. And even 100% green energy is a finite resource, much too precious for us to waste.

Check out this list of resources to learn more and help protect our energy resources and air!

Idle-Free Schools Toolkit for a Healthy School Environment from the EPA, Click here


The EPA’s “Clean School Bus Program”, Click here

NC DEQ: “Idle Reduction” (includes FAQs and other helpful links), Click Here


US Department of Energy: “Idling Reduction for Personal Vehicles” (2-page flyer), Click Here

Would you like to be a part of the LWV-Wake Environment Committee? We support measures that protect the environment, and we encourage policymakers to advance environmentally sound policies. Our members actively engage with issues related to human, animal, and plant health, water quality, waste management, plastic pollution, open space preservation, sustainability, and environmental justice. We hope you’ll consider joining us. For more information, send an email to