Idling in Atypical Situations



Drive-thrus (also known as drive-throughs) are so convenient; the great majority of motorists would not think to avoid them. Yet, by far, what is best is to do just that - for both drivers and all people in the vicinity to park the vehicle, turn it off and go into the place of business (exception: hybrid vehicles which seldom idle). Besides providing some exercise, this will save fuel — lowering the cost of your transaction — and keep emissions out of the atmosphere. If determined to use the drive-through, please note that idling for more than 10 seconds uses more fuel than is required to restart the engine. Turning off and restarting the engine a couple of times when proceeding through the process of waiting, ordering and then picking up can mean the difference between a minute of idling and five minutes. Studies show that any potential increased maintenance for the starter* and battery from more frequent starting is more than offset by fuel savings, and your vehicle will produce less harmful emissions. Again, however, it is best to not use drive-thrus.


Idling at extended stop lights, border crossings, & road construction zones


• EXTENDED STOP LIGHTS: While Idle-Free VT does not advocate shutting off an engine in traffic at extended stop lights under one minute, one may use their own judgement in balancing prolonged idling with possible safety issues.


• US/CANADIAN BORDER CROSSINGS: The wait times at some of the busier border crossings, such as Highgate Springs / St Armand (Rt. 89 / 133) and Derby Line / Stanstead (Rt. 91 / 55) can be very long for cars and trucks. Idle-Free VT recommends that light- and medium-duty vehicles shut off and restart on the slow approach rather than continuously idling. Drivers of heavy-duty vehicles are encouraged to consider this practice also.


• ROAD CONSTRUCTION ZONES: This campaign recommends shutting off the engine in road construction zones during extended wait times; however, this can be at the discretion of the motorist.


According to Lieutenant John Flannigan, Traffic Safety Unit, Vermont State Police, on road construction zones (stated in 2009):

"1) The act of shutting it off by itself is not illegal, unless it is restricting the movement of traffic or unsafe manner / location."

"2) It is appropriate in traffic that is stopped for a longer period of time w/o movement, such as a road closure, temporary road closure (MV crash, etc). However, it would be necessary to leave a vehicle running even in these circumstances if it was during winter month, rain (to see), etc."


Lieutenant Flannigan states basically that shutting down is okay except in freezing weather. As to rain, wipers can operate in Accessory mode.



*As personal verification of restarting, Wayne Michaud, Idle-Free VT Director, owned since new a 1997 Subaru Legacy Outback, sold with 214,000 miles. Despite more frequent restarting to avoid excessive idling, the vehicle's original starter did not need replacing.