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Consumer Reports: High toll of idling your car

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Posted at 4:00 AM, Feb 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-05 06:00:12-05

TUCSON, Ariz. - If you find yourself driving through the tiny village of Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, be sure to shut your engine if your car isn’t moving, or you could wind up with a $35 dollar ticket! Hastings’ Mayor, Nicola Armacost led the effort to implement an anti-idling law, which went into effect on December third.

“By switching off your car and not idling, you are making a contribution to reducing greenhouse gases," says Armacost. "That’s really important. It’s something each of us can do.”

29 states and the District of Columbia all have laws regulating idling. And for good reason. Idling not only contributes to global warming, it’s linked to asthma, decreased lung function, cardiac disease and cancer. In fact, one minute of idling puts more carbon monoxide in the air than smoking three packs of cigarettes!

Auto experts at Consumer Reports say there’s no good reason to keep a car running when it’s not moving. Even on a cold morning.

“When you start the car, you want to give it a little bit of time, say 30 seconds, to build a little heat into the engine, get the fluids rolling," says Jeff Bartlett, Consumer Reports. "That’s really about as much time as most people take to get settled and to buckle up.”

And many newer cars have a built-in fix.

“Many cars today have a start / stop system, so when you come to a stop for ten seconds or more, it’ll shut the engine off to save that fuel," says Bartlett. "And that saves you money at the same time.”

You can also reduce idling by not using the drive-thru or remote starters. And frankly, cutting your engine any time you’re just, well, sitting idle.

Consumer Reports cautions people not to try and mimic the auto-shut-off feature of newer cars by manually shutting the engine of an older car at say, a stop light. Older cars are not designed to turn on and off so frequently, and it may even pose a safety hazard by taking a bit longer to start up again.