Idle No More

       A healthy future for Maryland begins with healthy kids. Those kids are at risk when the buses and cars taking them to and from school churn out pollution in the drop-off and pick-up lanes.

       Under a new program from the Department of the Environment and the Department of Education, those arrival and departure areas will become idle-free.

      The two state agencies are collaborating on Idle Free MD to reduce emissions at schools. Twenty-three schools in eight counties and Baltimore City have already enacted anti-idling measures in their bus-loading zones. Folger McKinsey and Mayo elementary schools in Anne Arundel County were original members of the program.

       “Maryland is leading the way for clean air and healthy school grounds, and it starts by stopping the needless idling of engines,” said Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles. “Children are particularly vulnerable to vehicle exhaust pollution, which can cause cancer, asthma and other serious illnesses.”

       “We are gratified that so many schools and systems have stepped forward voluntarily to join in this program. We expect them to be the first of many,” said State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon.

       Monitoring at schools has shown elevated levels of air toxins during afternoon hours coinciding with school dismissal. Reduced vehicle and school bus idling would give Maryland significant reductions in carbon dioxide, particulate matter and nitrogen oxide pollution.

       Studies say idling as little as 10 seconds uses more fuel and results in more carbon monoxide than stopping and restarting a car engine. Under normal use, drivers can turn their engines on and off without concern about wearing out the starter or the battery prematurely. Idling damages engines and decreases engine life. Modern vehicles warm up faster by being driven than by idling.

      The Volkswagen Clean Air Act Civil Settlement supports The Idle Free program as well as other clean transportation initiatives including pilot-testing of electric school buses.