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No Parking at Idle

Wed, 08/31/2022 - 17:59


At Georgica Beach this past Saturday, a minor mystery caused speculation among beachgoers and lifeguards who wondered why a man spent the day inside a Subaru wagon with the windows up and the engine running. What he was up to was anyone’s guess; some thought that he must be involved in private security — but in a Subaru? Well, that did not seem to make sense. The man appeared to be conscious, and since there is no rule against sitting in an idling vehicle, people left him alone.

People who leave vehicles running when not necessary are creating real health and environmental dangers. These include long-term effects, such as lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, and asthma, and immediate impacts, such as those from noise and smell. Vehicle exhaust contributes to haze and smog, can damage monuments and historic structures, and contributes to algae blooms and oxygen starvation of coastal waters from nitrogen fallout. New York State prohibits trucks and buses from idling for more than five minutes, with a few exceptions, such as when loading or unloading or mixing concrete. Large vehicles actively involved in an emergency may be left running as well. The law does not apply to trucks of 8,500 pounds or less, however.

Several New York cities and towns have their own regulations. In the Village of Bronxville, for example, police and parking enforcement officers are authorized to issue tickets to a parked vehicle running for longer than three minutes. In the Town of Mamaroneck, the limit is five minutes while parked, standing, or stopped. It is the same in the City of New Rochelle. In most places, there are cold-weather exemptions. In East Hampton Town, only cab drivers are prohibited from keeping engines on for more than five minutes; East Hampton Village does not regulate idling.

Then there is simple civility. How many times have visitors to one of the beaches been subjected to the sound and fumes of a vehicle running in the next parking spot? There is not enough justification, for example, for a sport-utility vehicle driver we noticed at Indian Wells one evening this week with her windows up, air-conditioning on, and scrolling through her phone.

Adding “no idling” rules to town and village laws would seem an easy way to improve air quality, reduce fossil fuel consumption, and encourage drivers to act with a little more concern for others when in public places.

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