A thought: When stuck in line, turn off your car

Idle Free Linn aims to reduce pollution from waiting vehicles

Amy Drahos

Linn County Public Health
Amy Drahos Linn County Public Health

CEDAR RAPIDS — While plunging temperatures can make it a little more difficult, Linn County Public Health officials are reminding motorists about the importance of cutting down on idling vehicles whenever possible.

Amy Drahos, senior air quality scientist with Linn County Public Health, said the agency launched Idle Free Linn five years ago.

While Linn County meets all national ambient air quality standards, Drahos said officials believed a pre-emptive move was important to maintain those levels.

“We wanted to start a voluntary program so that people could take some steps to reduce air pollution in Linn County,” she said.

Toward that goal, Idle Free Linn is asking motorists to turn off their vehicles when parked for 10 seconds or more.

Drahos said that can be harder in the winter months but suggested cycling between five minutes of running the engine and two to three minutes of turning it off. She said this can be especially useful when waiting for lengthy periods of time, such as during the carpool line at school.

“They might be sitting there for 10 to 15 minutes,” Drahos said. “They can cycle on and off. They don’t need to run their car the whole time they’re sitting there.”

Idle Free Linn is focusing on areas where vehicles congregate to have the most impact.

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Drahos said she has been working with the Cedar Rapids, College Community, Linn-Mar and Mount Vernon school districts, which have implemented policies for their bus fleets. Some districts have campuswide policies that include parents, she said.

Drahos hopes to spread the message to other places like day cares, commercial businesses and driver’s education classes.

“Our primary purpose is to create awareness,” she said. “We have seen some great participation within the school district. We feel like we can reach more people. We are open to ideas for that.”

In the last five years, particulate levels in Linn County have dropped 30 percent and ozone — or smog — has dropped 10 percent, Drahos said.

“There’s always room for improvement,” she said.

Motorists also can reduce emissions by keeping their vehicles properly maintained, Drahos added.

More information about Idle Free Linn can be found at idlefreelinn.org.

l Comments: (319) 398-8238; lee.hermiston@thegazette.com

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