Your Auto and the Air: Stop Idling Today

When a vehicle comes to a stop and the engine is left running, it is called idling. This is a common occurrence at schools across the country. When buses drop off or pick up children, they often leave the engines running. In the mornings, buses may idle in the school parking lot to warm up, or drivers may fail to turn off the engine as they wait for children to board or exit the bus. Unfortunately, the diesel emissions that come from idling school buses can have a negative impact on the environment and children. To reduce the effect of diesel exhaust from buses, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed a no-idling campaign that is called the National Idle Reduction Campaign.

What is the Campaign About?

The National Idle Reduction Campaign is a campaign that strives to drastically reduce school bus idling outside of schools. The campaign is a part of the EPA’s Clean School Bus Program. Its goal is to help schools and bus drivers reduce the amount of harmful emissions around schools and school children. It requires bus drivers to turn off their engines as soon as possible after arriving at the school and to leave the engines off while students board and exit the bus. Additionally, buses should idle no more than five minutes when first started in the mornings.

  • Clean School Bus Idle Reduction Campaign: The Environmental Protection Agency explains Clean School Bus’s National Idle Reduction Campaign. It also explains why it is important to reduce idling and how to participate in the campaign. The page also separates idling fact from idling myths.
  • Idle Reduction School Bus Program: The Iowa Clean Cities Coalition’s page for its idle reduction school bus program. The page explains the National Idle Reduction Campaign and how buses reduce idling.

Hazards and Dangers of Idling

Often parents and even schools do not readily recognize that idling school buses present a number of dangers. The problems associated with idling centers around the exhaust that is released by the buses while they are running. Exhaust contains chemicals and fine particles that are harmful to people, particularly children and people with weakened respiratory systems. Some of the chemicals in the diesel exhaust of school buses may even cause cancer. In addition to being dangerous to human health, it is also a hazard for the environment. The pollution that comes from buses contributes to global warming, haze, and poor air quality.

  • Putney Energy Committee: No Idling Campaign: An article on the Putney Energy Committee website that explains the negative sides of idling. This includes increased fuel consumption and contributing to climate change.

How Idling Affects Children

One of the primary reasons to reduce bus idling is the impact that it has on children’s health. Kids are more susceptible to the chemicals and pollutants that are found in car exhaust. This is true for a number of reasons. Children are smaller and are closer to exhaust than adults. Many children often breathe through their mouth, which allows more of the particles found in the exhaust to enter their lungs. In addition, children breathe roughly 50 percent faster than adults. This means they are breathing in more air, more exhaust, and more pollutants. Even children in the classrooms are not safe from exhaust, courtesy of ventilation systems that allow pollutants to enter. As a result of their increased susceptibility, kids may develop asthma or chronic bronchitis.

  • Car Idling Negatively Impacts Kids Health: A PDF document that explains how car exhaust has a negative effect on children’s health. It also explains idling fumes, the chemicals in them, and what action can be taken to reduce them.
  • The Unhealthy Effects of School Bus Idling on our Children: An article that discussed the unhealthy side-effect associated with school buses idling near children. The article includes steps that can be taken to reduce the amount of dangerous emissions from cars.
  • Idle Free New Jersey – Health Impact: A page on the Clean Water Action website that explains why a vehicle should not idle for longer than three minutes. It also lists idling facts and health impacts of idling in a bullet point format.

Benefits of Not Idling

Just as there are dangers associated with idling, there are numerous benefits that come from implementing the no-idling campaign. When the amount of bus idling is reduced, so is the amount of emissions and chemicals released into the atmosphere. This helps combat poor air quality and helps keep the air in the general area cleaner and more breathable. Fewer pollutants in the air will also help combat global warming. When buses idle less, children are healthier for not breathing in toxins and pollution from the exhaust. Less idling also saves money by reducing fuel consumption. Another benefit of not idling is that it reduces the amount of wear and tear on the bus engine.

What Schools Can Do

Schools are critical when it comes to the success of the no-idle or idle reduction campaign. Schools should set up the policies regarding idle reduction and have clear idle-free zones for buses. Policies must state clearly that buses are to be turned off immediately and not restarted until it is time to depart. Schools are responsible for educating the drivers about their policies and making efforts to promote compliance. For example, on hot weather days schools may allocate a space for drivers to wait indoors, as opposed to sitting on the bus with the air conditioning on and the engine idle. Schools can also encourage and enforce compliance. This is done through regular observation of bus drivers, reminders of the no-idling rules, and re-education of drivers if necessary. If drivers continuously fail to comply, schools may need to work with the bus companies for maximum compliance.

  • Reduce Idling at Schools: A Southwest Ohio Air Quality Agency web page that illustrates the benefits of reduced idling at school. In addition, it also lists what schools can do to reduce idling.
  • No Idling Campaign/Healthier Schools: The Earth Day Network explains why it is important to reduce idling in terms of children’s health. It also tells the reader how to get started and provides links to the No – Idling Campaign toolkit and lesson plans.
  • Take Action – Simple Steps for Schools: A website that discusses how to protect children from diesel fumes. It also includes a section that explains what steps schools can take to reduce diesel fumes.
  • Idle Reduction and Clean School Bus Curriculum – Create and Enforce Idle Reduction Policies: A PDF document about idle reduction and school buses. The article includes a section that discusses how to create and enforce guidelines on idle reduction. The document also include additional information such as a fast fact about school buses.

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