Drive to cut idling motors

You are waiting in the car for someone and the engine is running. Or perhaps it's a van or the school bus. Maybe it doesn't seem worthwhile switching off the engine.

Just let it idle away so you will not have to restart the vehicle again - that also should save fuel.

Buzz! No, wrong answer. Try again.

If you allow the engine of your vehicle to idle, it creates unnecessary air and noise pollution. Not only is this a nuisance, but also it can be hazardous to passers-by.

Furthermore, studies have concluded that when it comes to fuel consumption, turning off your engine for 15 seconds or more ensures you save more fuel than if you had left your motor running.

In some countries like Switzerland, the official policy is to urge drivers to turn off their car engines even at traffic lights. In Japan, unnecessary idling can result in a penalty as high as 100,000 yen (HK$6,700).

An investigation carried out earlier this year by Friends of the Earth pinpointed Kowloon Tong, Kwun Tong and Causeway Bay as the worst areas in terms of 'percentage of vehicles idling'.

Using a computer simulation of a 'real life' situation at Kowloon Tong, figures were produced which suggested that under certain weather conditions idling engines would contribute more than 70 per cent of nitrogen dioxide content in the air. Meanwhile, children at a nearby kindergarten in a quiet backstreet could be among those to suffer from such pollution.

As part of World Environment Day, Friends of the Earth launched a campaign to stop idling engines.

Youngsters attending kindergartens wore green Friends of the Earth pin-folds and surgical masks, waved signs to protest against idling vehicles, and handed out window-stickers and leaflets to drivers.

And already it seems that public attitudes towards the harmful practice are changing. A Friends of the Earth survey has found that, although less than half of the drivers polled always switched off their engines when waiting, more than 60 per cent of the drivers who left their motor running said they would be willing to switch off regularly on realising this action helps the environment.

And 55 per cent of those surveyed said that laws on engine idling should be passed.

So positive outcomes are in hand. Take action. Imagine you are waiting inside a car, engine running, for someone to show up. What should you do with your engine? Turn it off - it's that simple.

Friends of the Earth is a local non- profit environmental organisation. For information, please call 2528 5588