Maryland Departments of Environment, Education Announce Idle Free MD Program to Reduce School Bus Emissions

News Release, Maryland State Department of Education

BALTIMORE, MD — The Maryland Department of the Environment and the Maryland State Department of Education are collaborating on a new Idle Free MD program to reduce school bus emissions and other vehicular emissions in school arrival and departure areas.  

A total of 23 schools in eight counties and Baltimore City, who already have enacted anti-idling measures in their bus loading zones, are the original members of the anti-idling program.

“Maryland is leading the way for clean air and healthy school grounds and it starts by stopping the needless idling of engines,” said Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles. “Children are particularly vulnerable to vehicle exhaust pollution, which can cause cancer, asthma, and other serious illnesses.”

“Students should be safe from harm while in the classroom, walking to school, or taking the bus. The Idle Free MD program is part of the state’s overall effort to strengthen student safety and preserve the environment for future generations,” said Dr. Karen Salmon, State Superintendent of Schools. “We are gratified that so many schools and school systems have stepped forward voluntarily to join in this program. We expect them to be the first of many.”

Monitoring at schools has shown elevated levels of air toxins during the afternoon hours coinciding with school dismissal. Reduced vehicle and school bus idling would provide Maryland with significant reductions in carbon dioxide, particulate matter, and nitrogen oxide pollution, while improving the health of all Maryland citizens.

According to studies, idling for more than 10 seconds uses more fuel and results in the production of more carbon monoxide than stopping and restarting a car engine. Under normal use, drivers can turn their engines on and off without concern about wearing out the starter or the battery prematurely. Idling damages engines and decreases engine life. Modern vehicles warm up faster by being driven than by idling.

MDE’s Idle Free MD program is a clean air strategy focusing on trucks, buses, and cars to cut pollution and save gas through reduced engine idling. It fits closely with the state’s plan for VW settlement dollars and other funds to boost clean transportation, including the pilot testing of electric school buses. The initiative is also part of the Hogan administration’s broader statewide and regional strategy to reduce vehicle and power plant pollution that could threaten public health and the Chesapeake Bay. Maryland’s Environmental Education program is designed to help students make decisions and take actions that create and maintain a positive relationship between themselves and the environment, and to preserve and protect the unique natural resources of Maryland, particularly those of the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed.

The original members of the program by county are:

Anne Arundel – Folger McKinsey and Mayo elementary schools
Baltimore County – Chatsworth School, Friends School of Baltimore, and Pinewood and Stoneleigh elementary school
Baltimore City – St. Elizabeth School and Archbishop Spalding High School
Cecil – North East Elementary School and West Nottingham Academy
Frederick – Myersville Elementary School
Harford – Forest Hill Elementary School and Southampton Middle School
Montgomery – Chevy Chase and Cedar Grove elementary schools
Prince George’s – Apple Grove, Capitol Heights, Paint Branch, and Pointer Ridge elementary schools
Wicomico – Fruitland Primary School and Willards Elementary School

All schools in Maryland are encouraged to develop and implement anti-idling campaigns. For more information about the Idle Free MD school bus effort click here. Resources in the Idle Free MD toolkit are available at the link to help schools educate the school community about the hazards of idling and create idle reduction policies.

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