Anti-Engine Idling Law in New York City

  • Added:
    Dec 18, 2012
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In 2009, the city of New York passed a new anti-engine idling law which asks vehicle drivers to switch off their engines after three minutes or to face huge fines.  Although this law has been around the 1970s, tough action and implementation is being taken only in the recent years.  The regulation also states that if the vehicle is near a school, the engines must be stopped within one minute and in case of heavy duty vehicles like trucks and buses this limit is for a maximum of five minutes.  However, the New York State Environmental Conservation Law (ECL) allows exceptions if the vehicle is stuck in traffic, is idling for maintenance, providing power to an auxiliary apparatus or is in any emergency.

Alarming Statistics
The American Lung Association of the City of New York gives some startling statistics for the impacts of idling on the environment: the cases of asthma are twice in number in New York borough when compared to the rest of the country and 1 in every 8 New Yorker is diagnosed with this disease.  It also ranked New York on the 8th spot among the worst cities with smog pollution in 2008.

The chief reason for city smog is air pollution that happens due to vehicles and idling contributes additionally towards it.  New York alone creates approximately 24 tons of soot, 940 tons of nitrogen oxides, 2,200 tons of volatile organic compounds, 6,400 tons of carbon monoxide and 130,000 tons of the green-house gas carbon dioxide because of vehicle idling.  Each year, due to idling, over $28 million worth of fuel is burned away.  This not only wastes money and fuel but also risks health of the citizens in the city.

Health Concerns

Pollution caused from soot and smog is known to be the second major contributor after smoking that can irritate and damage lungs.  This in turn can lead to increased risks of developing asthma, heart diseases and cancer.  One of the major sources of this pollution is idling which happens mostly along sidewalks, playgrounds, schoolyards, shops, hospitals and homes.  Studies have also shown that people living near heavy traffic areas are more prone to asthma attacks and heart disease.  Children exposed to such high levels of pollution are diagnosed with stunted lung development, respiratory and developmental problems, lower IQs, adverse birth defects and cancer.

Do you want to watch a documentary film about one mans resilient struggle with the NYPD to enforce a 38 year old anti-engine idling law in order to reduce air pollution and battle global warming? Against all odds, he succeeds and in the process, gets world wide recognition and improves the quality of life in New York.

Author's Profile

George Pakenham’s role as an activist in the environmental movement is quite focused on idling. Visit Verdant Vigilante to read more about the anti idling campaign undertaken by George Pakenham.


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