How to reduce idling in school car lines – @theU

It’s September. The school year is in full swing and every weekday morning and afternoon countless parking lots and neighborhoods near schools are full of cars. September also brings Utah’s Idle-Free Awareness Month, which reminds Utahns that idling wastes gas and creates air pollution as we ditch summer and head into the colder months.

Whether it’s in the September heat or the February cold, many parents leave the car running while waiting at school to keep their car comfortable. However, recent studies from the University of Utah have shown that outdoor air pollution can get indoors, which can affect student health, absenteeism and test scores.

What can school districts, principals, and PTAs do? A new study in the journal Vehicles by U researcher Daniel Mendoza, Westminster College researchers Madelyn Bayles and Rachel Forrest and colleagues shows that a campaign at an elementary school reduced both the number of idle vehicles and overall idle time. Here’s how they did it:

  • The Clean Air Committee at Bonneville Elementary School in Salt Lake City used the Environmental Protection Agency’s Idle-Free Schools Toolkit for a Healthy School Environment to organize an anti-idle campaign and invited researchers from U and Westminster College to examine the results of the campaign .
  • After a focus group and community survey, the school sent out information packets to its community, including an idle window sticker, a letter describing the school’s policies, and a commitment form.
  • The school encouraged the return of the pledges and named one school a ‘Clean Air Champion’ in afternoon announcements.
  • The school displayed a flag outside, the color of which matched the day’s air quality forecast.
  • Some drivers who did not idle were rewarded with an anti-idle keychain or Utah Royals football tickets.
  • Anti-idle artworks submitted by students were displayed as Yard signs.

The results? The number of idle cars decreased by 17% after the campaign and the total idle time decreased by 37%. The school’s multi-pronged approach, the researchers say, can help schools reduce idle time and improve both outdoor and indoor air quality.

The full study can be found here.

A Salt Lake City ordinance prohibits idling for more than two minutes. Do your part to reduce idle – it’s as easy as turning the key.

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