Before the 2008-2009 school year started in the White Salmon Valley School District, school officials invested in several new signs that were posted in front of each school.
The signs read: "No-Idle Zone," and display an image of a car spewing exhaust as school kids go by. It was a wise and considerate move by the school district.
Despite the signs, however, there appears to be little change in behavior by the adults picking up their kids after school. In fact, some parents even sit in the parking lots with their motors running, waiting for their kids.
That's unfortunate, to put it mildly.
The signs are there for a good reason: Scientific studies have proven that youngsters are more susceptible than adults to the harmful impacts of breathing automobile exhaust. It's not fair, and it's not right, to make them run a gauntlet of clouds of exhaust as they come and go to their classrooms.
What are the toxic emissions from automobiles linked to? Here's the awful list: Asthma. Allergies. Heart disease. Lung disease. Cancer.
There is no reason this no-idling request from the school district should be ignored.
Sure, sometimes it's cold outside, but the inside of a car will stay warm for quite a while if the windows are not opened. In any case, that is no justification to keep the car running. In fact, it is selfish. Think about it: "Let the kids breathe polluted air so I can stay a little bit warmer."
If giving the kids cleaner air means you have to be cold for a few moments, then please, make that minor sacrifice for them. They are well worth it.
There are also financial reasons to shut off those engines -- idling equals zero miles per gallon. Research shows that idling burns gas almost twice as fast as driving, and also produces almost double the amount of toxic emissions per second than a vehicle moving at average speed. And every two minutes of idling is equivalent to the amount of fuel it takes to go one mile down the road.
Idling is simply money and fuel burned for no reason. What a waste.
And it can be even worse than a waste: Excessive idling damages the engine components of your vehicle. Fuel is only partially combusted when idling, because the engine does not operate at its peak temperature, so you're also harming your cylinders and spark plugs by idling.
Follow a 45-second rule: If you're going to be sitting more than 45 seconds, shut the engine off.
If this problem continues and the no-idle signs are ignored, the schools might be smart to have their principals or another school official go out and remind folks that this is an issue well worth their attention and understanding.
Forcing these vulnerable youngsters to pass through toxic clouds of pollution every day is simply unacceptable.