traffic cars highway
Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Stupid Tip of the Day: Do Not Idle Your Vehicle For Greater Than 10 Seconds

Note: The replacement name for the Stupid Tip of the Day series of articles has not yet been chosen; and you can still choose which name is the best replacement.

The dining areas of restaurants have generally been closed throughout much of the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic; and for dining establishments to survive, they have had to be creative and offer other services — such as take-out, delivery, curbside, and drive thru…

Stupid Tip of the Day: Do Not Idle Your Vehicle For Greater Than 10 Seconds

Manila traffic
Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

…but motorists often leave their vehicles running when they decide to use the drive thru service — and wait times of two minutes to 15 minutes are not unusual.

If you find yourself using the drive thru of a business establishment, ensure that you turn off your vehicle if you know that it will be idle — that is, having your engine on while not moving — for at least ten seconds. Beyond that point, your vehicle unnecessarily consumes more fuel — and thus produces a greater amount of emissions which contribute to smog and climate change — than stopping and restarting your engine does…

…and that ultimately reduces the fuel economy of your vehicle while simultaneously — and unnecessarily — costs you money and creates pollution.

“Researchers estimate that idling from heavy-duty and light-duty vehicles combined wastes about 6 billion gallons of fuel annually”, according to this document from the Department of Energy of the United States. “About half of that is attributable to personal vehicles, which generate around 30 million tons of CO2 every year just by idling. While the impact of idling may be small on a per-car basis, the impact of the 250 million personal vehicles in the U.S. adds up. For saving fuel and reducing emissions, eliminating the unnecessary idling of personal vehicles would be the same as taking 5 million vehicles off the roads.”

Brooklyn Reality Tour
The Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in Brooklyn is clogged with the usual traffic that basically has not changed in decades. Photograph ©2011 by Brian Cohen.

Some jurisdictions even have laws against unnecessarily idling vehicles with which the motorist may be subject to paying a fine — including in:

  • Hawaii
  • New York City and other parts of New York state
  • Massachusetts
  • Maryland
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • Vermont
  • Parts of other states — including:
    • California
    • Colorado
    • Ohio
    • Utah


traffic cars highway
Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Contrary to popular belief, restarting your vehicle does not consume more fuel than leaving it idling — especially with the technological advances which vehicles are now equipped as opposed to vehicles which were manufactured decades ago.

Ensuring that you turn off your vehicle when it will be idle for greater than ten seconds could save you as much as 20 percent on the cost of fuel while simultaneously helping to keep the air cleaner of pollution.

All photographs ©2011, ©2014 and ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

  1. But when you turn your engine off you lose your AC and your forced to open up your windows and sweat in +90f humid weather. Worst part is if your at idle there are probally other people around you which means not only do you have to be miserable in the scorching heat you most likely will have to suffer by inhaling someone else’s cigarette smoke, which I can’t stand more then the heat. I’ll happily spend more on gas sitting at an idle its cheaper then electricity of trying to cool an entire home. Just my thoughts guess it makes a huge difference of where you live. I once lived in Phoenix try shut your AC and not “idle” in the in the middle of the summer and die of heat stroke, birds are dropping dead on the street from the heat 🙂

  2. Guilty…
    …um, thanks for the informed call out.
    While my state apparently does not care enough to levy fines, I will attempt to heed the advice. Interesting combination of articles this week. What’s next?

  3. Last summer the temperature topped at 122 degrees in the California desert southwest. Summer heat starts in April and ends in October. The AC will stay on… we have no choice. Otherwise we’ll end up in the ER surrounded by Covid-19.

  4. One of several reasons why a case could be made that drive thrus should be banned and that in most cases using one is a less moral choice than the alternative options.

  5. Why checked what’s happening to the amazon?

    You won’t save the world by turning off your engine when the world is burned down.

    I think all this right wingers need to be tried for crimes against humanity and executed.

  6. Really appreciated this post! I see this happen all the time at the dog park. After concluding a 10-minute walk some cars that were idling at the start of the walk are still idling at the end of the walk. When telling people to turn it off, they often are perplexed and even get upset that someone is telling them what not to do. Another example, I witnessed an individual unloading her recyclables at a recycling center, all the while idling the car. When I told the individual that it seems incongruent to recycle while idling your car (not the exact words I used), I got this: “get off your high horse!” Likewise, at construction sites, trucks routinely are parked and idling until their materials are ready to be unloaded or picked up. Call the number on the truck and report the driver. Unfortunately, I see it at the soccer field as well!
    Yes, there are circumstances (such as extreme heat and cold) where this is justified, but a lot of times it isn’t. I don’t see police doing enough, perhaps it is more convenient and lucrative to give people tickets for an expired meter. Perhaps, public shaming is the answer, not sure.

  7. Wow where do you live it must be in a cool temp area where you dont have to worry about the scorching heat. I would LOVE LOVE LOVE if someone told me to stop idling my truck, are there more like you out there? If you found me 100% I would open the window spit your face and tell you to go F*** off, I wait for the day someone comes to my car to tell me something stupid, please find me. If you really want to see me get angry please knock on my window in the process so get out abd give you a proper send off, nothing pisses me off more then that. I also carry a nice weighted stick and pistol in case you become offended after I spit in your face.

    1. I highly recommend you seek counseling from a qualified mental health professional for the anger issues which you may have, Try me.

    2. Goodness, Try Me, what a violent response!
      If you react that way to a simple request, how have you dealt with being told by your government to lock inside while they destroy the entire economy based on erroneous projections on the course of a virus?!

  8. Actually in Hawaii now due to COVID they have encouraged idling due to social distancing. If your unable to have at least 6 ft of distance between parked cards while waiting you must ensure your car is sealed off which means top-up and windows closed. No need to risk someone in the parked car next to you coughing COVID in to the air.

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