Watch out, idlers — Sandy’s mayor has signed the city’s first idle-free ordinance, and it’s one of the strictest in Salt Lake County.
The ordinance, passed with one dissenting vote at the council’s March 27 meeting, prohibits drivers from idling their car’s engine for more than one minute on public property or private property open to the public. Exemptions include traffic, use of law enforcement and fire equipment vehicles and repairing or inspecting a car.
At least four other municipalities in the county have citywide idle-free ordinances: Salt Lake City, South Salt Lake, Holladay and Murray. All allow for a two-minute idle before a driver comes in violation of the rule.
“We definitely try to stay consistent with what other communities around us are doing, [but] the one-minute thing we feel like is a reasonable time frame,” said Councilman Zach Robinson, who sponsored the resolution. “It wasn’t intended to be more strict, to be honest with you. But the benefit of having a one-minute time frame is, hopefully, we’ll get more people to shut their vehicle off.”
Though the one-minute rule may seem strict, a person must be issued three warnings for idling before being issued a citation. Robinson said that’s because the main purpose behind the ordinance is to educate the public on the air-quality benefits that turning off cars can have.
“We didn’t build it with the intention of writing 100 tickets on this,” he said. “We built this as a tool to help people just be mindful of their vehicle when they’re idling in their vehicle.”
The issue first came to the council’s attention after students from Altara Elementary School lobbied the city to limit idling, attending its Feb. 13 meeting and writing letters to the mayor urging action.
As a nod to their efforts, Mayor Kurt Bradburn signed the ordinance in the school’s gym on Tuesday .
“The Altara Elementary students’ efforts to raise awareness on the dangers of idling and the contribution to our city’s poor air quality is a great example of what can happen when citizens get involved to make their community better,” he said in a news release.
Utah is one of five states where more than 1 percent of lung cancers are likely caused by exposure to air pollution, according to the latest version of an annual report by the American Thoracic Society on the health effects of air pollution.
In the 2018 legislative session, lawmakers on Capitol Hill proposed nearly a dozen air-quality bills, most of which focused on emissions from cars. But Robinson said it’s important to take action on the city level, as well.
“Air quality is everybody’s issue,” he said. “We’re constantly trying to minimize our impact on the environment and to be able to have this ordinance on the books, it’s just another tool for [Sandy] to do so.”