You hold the key to clean air

Often idling cannot be helped, for example, if you are warming up your vehicle to help clear your windshield or dropping off the kids at the rink.

Just as often, there are situations when idling is not necessary. People are often seen running their vehicles while waiting to pick up a child at school or while running into a store.   Unnecessary idling gets you nowhere; instead‚ it wastes money and fuel, and produces greenhouse gases that lead to climate change.

As part of our Sustainable Community strategy, Okotoks has recently introduced a new idle-free bylaw.

Okotoks' Idle-Free Bylaw
Read Bylaw 18-15

The newly-approved idle-free bylaw puts measures in place we can all follow to benefit our community. The intent of this bylaw is to limit excessive idling. It’s important to know the bylaw has rules in place that change along with the temperature outside. Exceptions have been written into Bylaw 18-15 to take extenuating circumstances into effect.

Idle-Free Bylaw Highlights
  • No driver shall cause or permit an occupied vehicle to idle for more than three (3) consecutive minutes within a continuous thirty (30) minute period when the outdoor ambient air temperature is between 5oC and 25oC.
  • No persons shall cause or permit an unoccupied vehicle to idle for more than three (3) consecutive minutes within a continuous thirty (30) minute period when the outdoor ambient air temperature is above 0oC.
  • No persons shall cause or permit an unoccupied vehicle to idle for more than ten (10) consecutive minutes within a continuous thirty (30) minute period when the outdoor ambient air temperature is below 0oC.
Are there exceptions to the Idle-Free bylaw?

Yes.  For example, idling is permitted if there is a pet present in an unoccupied vehicle.  You are also allowed to idle (if required) while engaged in a mechanical test or vehicle maintenance.

Please read Bylaw 18-15 for the full list of exceptions

Cold Weather Idling

Natural Resources Canada suggests warming up your vehicle “by driving it at a moderate speed. In most cases, you need no more than 2-3 minutes of idling from a cold start on winter days. Vehicle components, such as wheel bearings, steering, suspension, transmission and tires, are best warmed up by driving the vehicle.” Please clear your windows of ice and snow before driving.

How Air Quality Affects Health

Vehicles emit visible particulate matter such as nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, and other volatile organic compounds. There is also a great amount of colourless pollutants, including greenhouse gases such as carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. 

"White Sock Challenge" - The image above compares different vehicle models and the visible particulate matter emitted during 1 minute of idling. From left to right: 1988 Toyota Hilux Surf (Diesel), 1992 Toyota Cressida, 2007 Dodge Caravan, 1998 Ford Taurus, 1986 Toyota Camry, 2003 Ford F-350, 1997 GMC Van, 2008 Chevy Tahoe, 2017 Honda Rebel, 2005 Nissan X-Trail, 2007 Mazda B3000, 2012 Ford F-150. 


Exhaust from vehicles is a major contributor to air pollution. Air pollution has a real and measurable effect on our health. Government analysis of data from eight Canadian cities shows approximately 5,900 deaths can be linked to air pollution every year. Air pollution sends thousands more Canadians to hospital each year. 

Learn more

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports monitoring at schools has shown elevated levels of benzene, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde and other air toxins during the afternoon hour coinciding with parents picking up their children.

Children’s lungs are still developing, and when they are exposed to elevated levels of these pollutants, children have an increased risk of developing asthma, respiratory problems and other adverse health effects. Limiting a vehicle’s idling time can dramatically reduce these pollutants and children’s exposure to them.

We Can Benefit Our Environment

Consider this: If all Canadians avoided idling for five minutes every day, we could prevent more than 2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from entering our environment. That's like taking 350,000 cars off the road for a year!

Myth: Your vehicle's engine should be warm before driving.

Fact: Idling is not the most effective way to warm a vehicle's engine. The best way to warm up your car is to drive it at a moderate speed. Even on the coldest days, you can drive away after 30 seconds.

Myth: Idling is good for your engine.

Fact: Idling can damage your vehicle's engine components. An idling engine is not operating at its peak temperature, which means complete fuel combustion is not occurring. The accumulation of soot deposits on cylinder walls can lead to oil contamination and damage engine components.

Myth: Shutting off and restarting your vehicle is hard on the engine.

Fact: Frequent restarting has little impact on engine components, such as the battery and starter. When shutting off and restarting the vehicle, the potential for fuel savings outweighs the wear on the vehicle's components.


Additional Information

The Impact of Emissions from Idling
Why do Canadians Idle?
Anti-Idling Program Slashes Fleet's Fuel Costs
Canada Business Network has ways to save your business money using idling reduction and other green strategies.