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Standing Idly By

You pull up to a drive-thru, hoping to be in and out with your coffee in the blink of an eye, but are met with a line that wraps around the building. You’ve arrived to pick up your sister for an afternoon adventure together, but she is not ready and you’re left waiting in the driveway. You swing by your bank and pull up to the ATM, roll down your window and begin your transaction.

What do these situations have in common?

Idling wastes more fuel than you think.

Your car is probably idling. And, if you’re like many Americans, this isn’t a problem to you. But stop and consider the true cost of this behavior. Sure, it’s only 5 minutes in the drive through line, maybe 10 in the driveway, but it all adds up. How far could you have driven with the gas wasted in those 15 minutes? Of course, this depends on your car, but the US Department of Energy estimates that you save between 1-2 cents per minute by avoiding excessive idling. It may not seem like much, but if you idle for 15 minutes a day, 5 days a week, that adds up (conservatively) to about 40 dollars a year.

That’s a full tank of gas burned while idling.

The fuel used by your car during idling hurts more than just your wallet. In 2012, 28% of all carbon dioxide emissions in the United States were from transportation. With climate change on the forefront of our minds, reducing idling is one easy way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. All it takes is the turn of a key! If you know you’ll be waiting for more than a minute, turn the car off. Or, better yet, park and head on in! Stretch your legs and your gas money by avoiding drive through lanes.

[Contributed by Heather Landis, UF Program Assistant]


EPA Transportation and Air Quality

US Department of Energy – Fuel Economy