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Sustainability Advisory Committee Warns Parents About Car Idling

For back-to-school, Dedham's Sustainability Advisory Committee wants to remind parents why car idling is against the law and what it can do to the environment.

Patch File Photo
Patch File Photo

Back-to-school is right around the corner and parents will be dropping off and picking up kids at Dedham schools and sports practices.  However, Chuck Kabat from the Dedham's Sustainability Advisory Committee feels it’s a good time to remind parents and other family members about the issues surrounding car idling. 

"It’s natural to keep our engines running, thinking we’ll only be stopping for a minute,"  Kabat said "But the negative impact of even limited idling can be significant."

According to the Environmental Defense Fund, car idling contributes to smog and increasing amounts of carbon dioxide, a primary contributor to global warming. 

"In addition, idling pollutes the air around the vehicle.  Idling near schools could trigger health complications such as childhood asthma, a condition that is on the rise in our country," Kabat said.

Kabat also shared information from a recent report from the California Energy Commission.  The report challenged three common misconceptions:

  1. Engines should be warmed up – data found that idling is not an effective way to warm up today’s modern engines. Driving will do it. No more than 30 seconds is required, even in winter.
  • Idling is good for a car – in reality, excessive idling damages a car’s cylinders, spark plugs and exhaust systems because fuel is only partially combusted, leading to the build up of fuel residues.
  • Restarting engines uses more gas – improved technologies over the years have made this idea inaccurate as frequent restarting has little impact on engine components. The Commission found that idling for more than 10 seconds uses more fuel than restarting an engine.
  • It's also important to know that idling in Massachusetts is against the law (Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 90, Section 16A). 

    "Most Massachusetts residents have no idea. I didn’t," Kabat said. "The law applies to all vehicles and its goal is simple: bolster our air quality. To obey the law, help the environment and improve our collective health, please consider cutting your engine when you’re just waiting. The air in Dedham will appreciate it."

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