Tom Smart, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Mayor Ralph Becker's anti-idling campaign has shifted into high gear with the start of school in the aim of getting parents who drop off their children curb-side to shut off their vehicles' engines.
Becker was joined by education leaders Monday in a kick-off campaign at Rose Park Elementary to inaugurate September as "Idle Free Awareness Month" and to celebrate the fifth year of the program that initially partnered with 63 schools.
Since 2008, the program has spread to other regions of the state to tap the involvement of 34 mayors and nearly 300 schools.
The kickoff, too, underscores the city's Idle Free Ordinance that prohibits unnecessary idling for more than two minutes on public property within city limits or publicly accessible property. Passed in October of 2011, the ordinance calls for fines on violators in an attempt to reduce city pollution — 50 percent of which comes from vehicle exhaust, according to city leaders.
"Turning off our cars when idling is an important and easy step all of us can take to help reduce emissions, save fuel and make a positive impact on our local air quality," Becker said. "This decision is especially important when we're picking up or dropping off students at our schools."
Irene Rizza, northern coordinator of Utah Clean Cities, said experience has taught the advocacy group that increasing children's awareness about air pollution issues is among the most effective ways to create change.
"It is good to get the kids involved because eventually they will be drivers," she said. "That age group is sometimes a lot more receptive to those messages."
Initially, the group targeted school bus drivers in efforts to reducing unnecessary idling and now hope to reach parents through their children.
Schools, she added, are great incubators of campaigns because they bring a community of together of both children and adults.
"Even if we get one person to change their behavior, it adds up," she said.