Sustainable Westport: An Idle Idea

Alert “06880” reader — and yearning-to-breathe-free Westporter — Peter Boyd chairs Sustainable Westport. He writes:

Sustainable Westport recognizes that families are making tough choices during the pandemic. Not the least is if and how to get your students to and from school.

Safety comes first. Bus capacity is reduced to enable safe distancing of students, and many parents and guardians opt to drive their children after encouragement from the schools to do so.

In these strange times when we all do our best for our families and community, Sustainable Westport has another suggestion for how drivers can help protect our children: When waiting in stopped traffic at pick-up and drop-off, please turn off your car whenever possible to reduce the impacts of idling engines.

Waiting in line for a school pick-up

Poor air quality affects the health of everyone — especially children, who breathe 50% more air per pound than adults.

If you need other reasons to switch off, a state regulation requires all vehicle engines be turned off after 3 minutes of idling (except in certain conditions, including air temperature below 20 degrees F).


In addition, you start saving fuel if you are not moving for more than 7 seconds (hence the auto cut-off on many of the newer vehicles). No one will ticket you if you don’t switch off, but hopefully you feel better when you do.

And you can keep the radio on while you wait.  Modern, well-maintained car batteries can last for several hours while playing music.

During this difficult time, when so much is out of our control, let’s take initiative to control the air pollution we produce.

It is so nice to see how many students now walk or bike to and from school.

If feet or pedal power is not an option, consider an electric vehicle. (Westport has the greatest number of EVs per capita of any town in Connecticut – as celebrated at the recent EV car rally).


EVs are increasingly affordable. They provide impressive savings over the lifetime of the vehicle. They can idle without polluting the air, and be charged at home.

We understand that going electric may not be an option for everyone. We know that life is throwing many challenges at Westport families right now. So if driving your kids to school in a gas-powered car works best for you, please keep in mind that “young lungs are at work.” Let’s look after them!


6 responses to “Sustainable Westport: An Idle Idea

  1. Susan Iseman

    I so agree, and while we need to protect young lungs, my 65 year old lungs appreciate clean air too. As I entered a market on a temperate day, I noticed a young woman in her vehicle idling. I returned to my car about 30 minutes later, and her vehicle (a large SUV) was still idling. This goes on constantly all over town. Then there’s Starbucks….I wish the Marpe administration would post signs about idling in parking lots. What can we do?

    Here’s a link to the CT site:—Home

  2. Great reminder that we are all in this together for the long run!

  3. Thanks for the reminder Peter! Maybe we can recycle some of the campaign lawn signs after 11/3 and have students create no idling messages to be posted on them along the school driveways.

  4. Sherry Jagerson

    Thank you Peter. Such an important and thoughtful message. I spend a lot of time at the Sherwood Mill Pond Preserve and often people stop for “just a minute”. After 10 or 15 minutes I say “excuse me, would you please turn off your motor, Westport doesn’t allow idling, They usually thank me and turn off their motors. Nancy, I love your idea to repurpose those yard signs. Kids could stand at the dump the day after elections as the signs come pouring in,

  5. The sign should specify “No ENGINE idling” as, in fact, everyone in those cars is “idling” as they wait.

  6. Werner Liepolt

    Discouraging car drivers from idling is a great idea and should be reinforced as Fall progresses.

    Sustainable Westport could do more good turn focus on Daatco!

    Their busses idle for very long periods outside schools every day AND they idle in neighborhoods as well. The bus that begins its six thirty run down Imperial Ave spews diesel fumes for half an hour every morning!

    This should stop immediately.

    In the longer view shouldn’t we encourage cleaner, more efficient busses and withhold contracts from environmental abusers?