Schools can be seen as taking center stage on the issue of the harm and waste of unnecessary vehicle idling - on both sides of the coin. They represent the challenges in dealing with it and the opportunities of eliminating it. On the one side, the transportation network of school buses and other vehicles that serve the school environment presents the challenge of the need to protect the citizens of the school, particularly its students. Drivers must be made aware that idling on the school premises is a harmful practice. On the other side, schools present a tremendous opportunity to educate future motorists - before they acquire misinformed habits about idling, as well as the opportunity to change the behavior of adults - current motorists in the school community.


Idle-Free California advocates to reduce vehicle idling at schools on two levels: regulations and education.


REGULATIONS: California regulates the idling of vehicles 10,000 lbs. or greater. In the school environment, this includes medium- and heavy-duty school buses and delivery vehicles. Vehicles less than 10,000 lbs, mainly light-duty vehicles such as passenger cars, SUVs, vans and pickup trucks, are not regulated for idling. This allows motorists to let their engines run while waiting for dismissal. In our idle-free schools campaigns we have witnessed the amount of idling occurring at schools. The line up of mostly idling vehicles is known as caravan idling, which creates idling "hot spots" near school entrances. This has an adverse impact on people in the vicinity, especially students. The U.S. EPA states:


"Idling vehicles contribute to air pollution and emit air toxins, which are pollutants known or suspected to cause cancer or other serious health effects. Monitoring at schools has shown elevated levels of benzene, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde and other air toxics 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."


California recognized this issue in 2016 when the state legislature took a step on behalf of school student health by adopting ACR-160. Sponsored by former assemblymember David Hadley, this resolution addresses the issue of vehicular air pollution, specifically motor vehicle idling and children. This measure encourages motorists to not idle their motor vehicles near places where children congregate. Unfortunately, ACR-160 is non-binding - it is not enforceable.


Idle-Free California is encouraging legislators and the Air Resources Board to elevate this measure to a regulation.

These entities need to hear from YOU.







Using the compelling language by the EPA and in ACR-160, let your representatives know you would like a

   California light-duty vehicle idling regulation to limit idling at schools or where children congregate. You can also

  sign a PETITION at!


Contact California Air Resources Board board members, some of which serve on local air districts and/or are

   experts in fields that shape air quality rules.

- John R. Balmes, MD  Physician Member  email  510-643-4702

- John Gioia  Bay Area AQMD Member & District One Supervisor  510-231-8686  webform email

- Judith Mitchell  South Coast AQMD Member  310-377-1577 Ext. 304  email

- Barbara Riordan  Mojave Desert AQMD Member  760-245-1661 Ext. 5040

- Ron Roberts  San Diego APCD Member & San Diego Board of Supervisors 4th District  webform email

- Phil Serna  Sacramento Region Air Districts & Sac. County Board of Supervisors District 1  916-874-5485  email

- Alexander Sherriffs, MD  San Joaquin Valley APCD Member & San Joaquin Valley APCD  559-834-1614



EDUCATION: To educate on the adverse effects of vehicle idling at schools, Idle-Free California recommends two approaches: idle-free classes and idle-free campaigns.


Idle-free classes are part of a curriculum taught in science, math, STEM, health, environment, and driver education classes. These sessions can include information on vehicle idling, negative impacts of idling (health, energy, carbon, economic) and even when idling can be necessary.


RESOURCES: Idle-Free California's Green Driving from the Start, Sustainable Jersey Anti-Idling Education & Enforcement, Clean Cities Idlebox Toolkit for Idling Reduction Projects (PowerPoint)


Idle-free schools campaigns address the issue of idling “hot spots” at many schools, for instance when parents pick up students in afternoon pick up areas (California regulates the idling of school buses and other heavy-duty vehicles at or near schools; light-duty vehicles are not regulated). The solution: science, math, STEM, health, and environmental teachers and their students conduct idle-free campaigns. These can be month-long short-term efforts in which data of idling vehicles is collected on school grounds, followed by an evaluation and an informational campaign to get the word out in the school community. Or unique long-term studies and campaigns which can last most of the school year. Steps include unobtrusive data collection for one week in the fall, schools announcing support of an idle-free campaign in the school community in late fall, a driver contact event for several days in late winter, and final data collection for one week in spring (to determine a "before" and "after" difference). These campaigns are designed to be led by middle and high school students, allowing them to learn organizational, analytical and communication skills as they perform data analysis, be empowered by showing drivers the significant benefits in shutting off engines when parked, and take pride in making a positive difference in their school community.


RESOURCES: Idle-Free California's California Idle-Free Schools, EPA Region 8 Idle Free Schools Toolkit, Spare the Air Turn the Key – Be Idle Free!, Grades of Green No Idle Zone, Idle-Free VT Idle-Free Schools Campaigns, Ace Alliance for Climate Education Idle-Free Schools Campaign

East Bay Times

Idle-Free California proposal to regulate the idling of vehicles less than 10,000 lbs. on school property

Idle-Free School Efforts in California


Listing of known idle-free school campaigns or initiatives in California (TELL US YOURS!):


Oak Park Unified School District, 2012  No Idling Policy


Pleasanton Middle School, 2015  Article   Video

Organized by: Spare the Air, San Francisco


San Carlos School District, 2015   Webpage

Organized by: San Mateo County Safe Routes to School: Idle Free San Carlos


Robinson Elementary School, Manhattan Beach, 2016   Article   Video

Organized by: Grades of Green, El Segundo


Pittsburg Unified School District/Martin Luther King Jr. Junior High School, 2016   Article   Video

Organized by: Spare the Air, San Francisco


Woodbury Elementary School, Irvine, 2017   Webpage

Organized by: Grades of Green, El Segundo


Grandview Elementary School, Manhattan Beach, 2017   Webpage

Organized by: Grades of Green, El Segundo


Alhambra High School, Martinez, 2017   Article

Organized by: Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors, Martinez


American Martyrs School, Manhattan Beach, 2018   Webpage

Organized by: Grades of Green, El Segundo

School Buses


Most school buses are equipped with heavy-duty diesel engines. Thanks to EPA regulations and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) Lower Emissions School Bus Program, the vast majority of California's 25,000+ school buses have lower emissions. The primary goal of this program is to reduce school children's exposure to both cancer-causing and smog-forming pollution. The program provides grant funding for new, cleaner, safer school buses and to put air pollution control equipment (i.e., retrofit devices) on buses that are already on the road.


Furthermore, the California School Bus Idling and Idling at Schools Regulation limits idling of school buses and heavy-duty commercial motor vehicles greater than 10,000 pounds that operate at or near schools. This regulation is a big win, that not only protects school students and others from diesel exhaust, it reduces carbon emissions, conserves energy, and saves California taxpayers money in unburned fuel and lessened engine maintenance.

The "Know Zone" for students and teachers on School Bus Idling and Idling at Schools


Observation of Idling School Bus, Transit Bus or Delivery Vehicle On or Near School Property: Idling commercial vehicles are detrimental to California's air quality. You can help reduce the harmful air pollutants caused by idling school buses or delivery vehicles by calling the California Air Resources Board's Vehicle Complaint Hotline, at 1-800-363-7664 or 1-800-END-SMOG. Or, fill out the ARB online complaint form. The ARB will be in contact with the vehicle owner to address the issue.



THE WAVE OF THE FUTURE (and the present): ELECTRIC SCHOOL BUSES. While still relatively in their infancy, as production grows to lower costs, and battery capabilities improve, clean electric school buses are beginning to make inroads. And California is leading the way with new or retrofitted electric school buses being added to fleets of school districts. As of July 2018, the growing list of California school districts having at least one electric school bus includes:


•Anaheim Elementary School District

•Brawley Elementary School District

•Calaveras Unified School District

•Chico Unified School District

•Coachella Valley Unified School

•Covina-Valley Unified School District

•Edison School District

•Fall River Joint Unified School District (Burney)

•Gateway Unified School District

•Gilroy Unified School District

•Gonzales Unified School District

•Healdsburg Unified School District

•Kings Canyon Unified School District (Reedley)

•Konocti Unified School District

•Los Angeles Unified School District

•Magnolia School District

•Montebello Unified School District

•Napa Valley Unified School District

•Oroville Union High School District

•Palermo Union School District

•Plumas Unified School District

•Rescue Union School District

•Santa Rita Union Elementary School District

•Savanna School District

•Torrance Unified School District

•Twin Rivers Unified School District (McClellan Park)

•Ukiah Unified School District

•Wilsona School District (Palmdale)

Electric school bus at California State Capitol

The ChildSafe School: No Idling Zone