Idle Free

The Southwest Ohio Air Quality Agency is here to help your school, business or community launch an Idle-Free Campaign to improve your local air quality. We’ll provide free signs, brochures, support materials and guidance. Download the Be Idle Free brochure here. To learn what idling is and why it is a problem, read on!

What Is Idling?jpg

An idling vehicle is one that has a running engine when it is parked or not in use. The most common reasons for engine idling are:

  • warming up the car
  • waiting for someone
  • running an errand

Other reasons, reported by drivers include:

  • personal comfort
  • listening to the radio
  • parking illegally
  • convenience

Why Is Idling a Problem?

Idling wastes money and natural resources, affects the environment and harms our health.

Wastes Money and Natural Resources

  • Thirty seconds of idling can use more fuel than turning off the engine and restarting it. If you are stopped for more than 30 seconds, except in traffic, turn off your engine.
  • An idling car is the most inefficient car on the road—it gets 0 miles per gallon. Turning off your car will save gas and money.

Affects the Environment

Car exhaust contains three of the six major air pollutants that are harmful to the environment and public health: carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter (PM).

  • Vehicle exhaust also contains volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which are chemicals in the air that can potentially cause health effects.
  • Nitrogen dioxide and volatile organic compounds can have a chemical reaction that creates ozone—another major air pollutant.
  • Keep in mind that every gallon of gas you use produces about 19 pounds of carbon dioxide, a contributor to greenhouse gases.
  • Mobile sources (including cars and trucks) are the #1 source of air pollution in the Southwest Ohio region.

Harms Our Health

Vehicle exhaust can adversely affect lung function and may promote allergic reactions and airway constriction. Medical research reveals a connection between high air pollution rates and higher asthma rates.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 1 in 12 people (or 8% of the U.S. population) have asthma. In Ohio, closer to 9% of adults suffer from asthma. The CDC lists outdoor air pollution and smoke from fires as two of the six leading asthma attack triggers.
  • All vehicles emit very fine particles that can deeply penetrate lungs and inflame the circulatory system, damaging cells and causing respiratory problems.
  • Children are particularly vulnerable to air pollution because they breathe faster than adults and inhale more air per pound of body weight.
  • Many people believe that they are protected from air pollution if they remain inside their vehicles. According to a report by the International Center for Technology Assessment (CTA), exposure to most auto pollutants is much higher inside vehicles than at the roadside. This includes volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and carbon monoxide (CO) which may be linked to serious health problems—like respiratory infections and cancer. The highest exposure occurs when sitting in traffic congestion on highways or in a line-up of idling vehicles at a school or drive-thru.
Information provided by: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, City of Mississauga, Canada and the Environment and Human Health, Inc.