SOUTHEASTERN, N.C.—It’s cold out. Actually, it’s freezing, and the idea of sitting on frozen seats, holding a frozen wheel can elicit dread in many coastal residents.
While it may seem like a good idea, abandoned your car while it’s running for several minutes is bad for the environment and can put you at risk of theft.
North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NC DEQ) asks that motorists limit idling their car in cold weather.
“Cars are made to be less harmful to the environment now, it just is not required to have that much idling time to warm up your car,” said Jill Lucas, a spokeswoman for the DEQ’s Division of Air Quality.
After 30 seconds pass, Lucas says most modern cars are fine to slowly drive. Engines will warm up faster when being driven as opposed to idling.
“You don’t have to leave your car sitting out there for 10 mins,” she said.
When it’s freezing outside, Lucas asks that motorists take common sense approaches while also considering safety.
“The longer your vehicle is idling you are contributing to emissions,” Lucas said. “All of that exhaust will spew into the atmosphere.”
If harmful emissions into the environment aren’t convincing enough, consider vehicle theft as a reason to limit idling in the cold.
While the act of leaving a vehicle idling with keys in the ignition and no passengers is not illegal in Wilmington, it is in Charlotte. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department is cracking down on those that choose to warm up, and officer Johnathan Frisk calls the act a “crime of opportunity.”
Wilmington Police cadet Kor Watch says that although idling is not illegal in Wilmington, it is strongly advised against.
“I would advise against it personally and any officer would tell you this too,” Watch said. “It does promote someone able to walk up to your car and getting into it.”
“I would recommend against it especially if you live in a populated area like downtown,” he said.
According to Watch, idling would only be illegal in town if children or animals were left unattended in the vehicle.
In cold weather, minimize #idling to warm your car. Most makers recommend driving off gently after about 30 seconds. The engine will warm up faster being driven, which will allow the heat to turn on sooner, decrease your fuel costs, and reduce emissions. https://t.co/oQMolyc1YV. pic.twitter.com/aZeV5cwOTT
— N.C. DEQ (@NCDEQ) January 3, 2018
Johanna Ferebee can be reached at email@example.com or @j__ferebee on Twitter