Thursday, November 13, 2008

Not-So-Idle Thoughts About Westchester's New No-Idling Law

It will soon be illegal in Westchester County to let your car idle for more than three minutes. Local cops and county police will enforce the law, which carries a $250 fine.

How a cop will know whether your car has been idling for three minutes is a mystery.

A more important mystery, though, is: why three minutes? The Consumer Energy Center recommends that you turn off your ar if you're going to be idling for more than 10 seconds (or 30 seconds, depending on which sentence on this page you prefer). Here's the reasoning:

For every two minutes a car is idling, it uses about the same amount of fuel it takes to go about one mile. Research indicates that the average person idles their car five to 10 minutes a day. People usually idle their cars more in the winter than in the summer. But even in winter, you don't need to let your car sit and idle for five minutes to "warm it up" when 30 seconds will do just fine.

But you're not going anywhere. Idling gets ZERO miles per gallon.

The recommendation is: If you are going to be parked for more than 30 seconds, turn off the engine. Ten seconds of idling can use more fuel than turning off the engine and restarting it.

A columnist for Slate magazine agrees -- if you're going to be idling for more than 10 seconds, turn off your car.

I'm glad Westchester County is passing the new idling law. But it could have been a bit tougher, no?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been guilty of this, usually for the heat during winter. I was working outdoors, and the only place to warm up was in the car. I am not sure that driving to a diner would have been more energy efficient.

I will however, applaud the idea from an aesthetic point of view. A pet peeve of mine is the unnecessary noise created by idling. I have had many peaceful moments at Byram Park, Milton Point, etc that have been interrupted by a driver who insists on idling their car, blasting the talk radio, and messing around with their car alarm, while having a loud conversation on their cell phone.
It amazes me how often this happens.

9:06 AM  
Blogger Sam said...

From an air quality perspective this makes much more sense for heavy duty diesels. The general rule no idling no more than 5 minutes. The EPA will not "credit" emission reductions from diesel trucks unless the idling period was proven to be longer than 5 minutes - but them was shortened. Many truckers never turn their engines off.

I have no clue where these folks are getting their numbers, but a huge diesel truck only burns a few pints an hour at idle, perhaps a quart or so.

So this sounds like a "feel good" regulation when applied to cars. Poor folks don't get to warm up their cars in the winter, huh? I know that reducing fuel is good but question the motives here. Morality?

12:09 PM  
Anonymous Bryan said...

Seeing a line of cars at the Starbucks or McDonald's drive-thru is my pet peeve. Ban drive-thru windows or make them handicap-access only. We'll save fuel and the steps that someone has to take from their parked car to the counter will burn a few (a very few) of the bizillion calories or grams of fat consumed.

2:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just "googled" this law because I had heard about it and am very upset. I commute a short distance daily. My car is not garaged, so I usually have to turn it on in the winter and warm it up. Why? Because there is usually frost and/or ice on my windshield and it takes more than three minutes for the hot air to blow in the defroster and for me to scrape it. Trust me, when I was irresponsible enough to rush out in the morning and try to do this more quickly, it didn't work.
I have a pretty fuel efficient car. Why not establish laws cutting down on some other emissions hazard on the road? If I try to warm up my car for less than 3 minutes, it causes more of a hazard as the windows are often covered in frost and/or ice.

6:30 PM  

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