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Idling: It's Time to Kick the Idling Habit

Many Canadian motorists have fallen into the idling trap – even in the summer. A Canadian study of driving habits and behaviour shows that we idle our vehicles year-round and do so for many reasons.

Warming up a vehicle is the most common reason for idling. Moreover, we idle while we are stopped at railway crossings, waiting to park, running quick errands, stopping to talk to an acquaintance or friend and waiting in line to get gasoline.

Although it's safe to say that most Canadian motorists do some amount of idling, the same study reveals some interesting trends. For example, the amount of idling we do tends to increase with the number of people in our household. If we live with children, we're more likely to idle than drivers without children. As well, how often we idle appears to decrease as we get older - retirees are the least likely to idle. If we live in a rural area, we're more likely to idle than drivers living in urban centres. Regionally, people in British Columbia are the least likely to idle their vehicles.

The good news is that we can kick the idling habit by thinking about fuel efficiency every time we drive our cars. It is one easy way we can each contribute to Canada's goal - to reduce Canada's total emissions of greenhouse gases by 20 percent by 2020 relative to 2006 levels 22. Here are some basic tips for reducing the waste and environmental impacts caused by idling:

  • Turn off the engine if the vehicle is going to be parked for more than 60 seconds (except in traffic).
  • Drive the vehicle to warm it up‚ rather than idling the engine. (On cold winter days, usually no more than two to three minutes of idling is enough warm-up time.)
  • Use remote car starters wisely to avoid excessively long warm-ups.
  • Use a block heater on cold winter days to warm the engine before starting it (ideally, the block heater should be turned on by an automatic timer 2 hours before starting).

22 The Government of Canada's Regulatory Framework for Air Emissions, Catalogue No. En 84-53/2007 (Executive Summary pg. iv)