How to be a Changemaker at the Traffic Stop

urban traffic jam
Engine idling causes of air pollution and inefficient fuel consumption. What happens when we turn that around?

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Originally posted on Medium (

When was the last time you were at a traffic signal or making a brief pitstop at the side of the road, and actually turned off your motorised vehicle’s engine?

If you’re thinking, I always do that, you might want to add-on to what I have to say here.

But if this idea sounds alien to you, this is an opportunity to understand why it may be one of the most important day-to-day choices that we make.

In urban India, commuters spend more than 90 minutes a day on average on the road. One-fourth of this time is usually spent waiting at traffic signals.

And, that is a lot of time, approximately the length of an episode from a sitcom.

During this idle time, your vehicle’s engine can be turned off. But often due to sheer habit and peer commuter influence, we choose not to do that — consciously or subconsciously. However, this hyperlocal issue cannot be ignored because its ramifications impact our finances, environment, and health.

Save Your Money.

Switching your engines off at traffic stops will burn lesser fuel. This translates to not just savings from reduced fuel use but also improves the lifetime of your vehicle’s engine by avoiding carbon deposit in the cylinders and piston valves.

According to studies, on an average, you waste 0.098 litres of fuel for every 10 minutes of idling. That is, a quarter litre of fuel on average, every single day.

Save Your Environment.

Even with the advent of electric vehicles and other low-emission vehicles, the masses are still using vehicles that use fossil fuels and pollute the environment on the go. By simply reducing fuel burn at traffic signals, a lot of this air pollution can be curbed.

Save Your Health.

Also, have you noticed how it feels hotter and hazier at the traffic signals? Yes, that is because of all the engines that are using fuel whilst idling. This leads to chronic pathologies in our upper respiratory tract and skin.

An idle engine is a polluter’s workshop.

While there are multiple discussions on Quora-esque forums around the factors for choosing to turn off an engine at the traffic signal, a well-buffered value of 30 seconds hits the sweet spot for most vehicles, including cars, bikes, buses, and trucks. (Read more: An Indian research about fuel wastage due to engine idling)

This means that if the traffic stop or pitstop is 30 seconds or longer, it is best practice to turn off your engines, that is, only if you wish to safeguard your money, environment, and health.

Of course, in India, there are a lot of other factors that play into making this choice.

^ Traffic signals without timers.

^ Manned traffic points.

^ Unmanned traffic junctions.

^ Quasi-static moving traffic.

While those in the government and private sector responsible for deploying infrastructure and adequate technology for commuters must enable people to make synergistic decisions, the public too has an important role in the process.

That role is that of being aware and responsible citizens who voluntarily put in their time to think and act towards the things that matter to them and their surroundings. (Read moreLearning at work can lead to a sustainable world)

It is possible that we aren’t strong or influential enough to change the world on its head. But, we can make the little alterations like turning off our vehicles at a red signal. Together, this will positively impact our lives and lifestyle.

So, the next time you see yourself or someone else keeping their engines turned on at a stop longer than 30 seconds, you could simply request them to turn it off.

Or, if you’re at a traffic stop without a countdown deploy your urban instincts to make a choice. You don’t have to be Spiderman to exercise instincts.

Today, when you get into a cab. Anna, can you turn on the a/c?

Tomorrow could be,Anna, could you turn off the vehicle? You’ll save some fuel.

Anything that reduces fuel consumption and cuts down on greenhouse gasses is good news.

Originally posted on our Medium profile • April 9, 2018
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