Vehicles powered by gasoline and diesel give off air pollutants and gases such as oxides of carbon, nitrogen and sulphur, hydrocarbons and soot. These pollutants affect the quality of the air we breathe, our health, crop yields and even the global climate.

Hydrocarbons and oxides of nitrogen react in sunlight to form ground-level ozone, better known as smog. Smog is a major health hazard responsible for respiratory ailments and other illnesses. Oxides of sulphur and nitrogen combine with water vapour to form acid rain, which damages our lakes, forests and crops.

Global warming is the result of too much carbon dioxide and other gases trapping heat in our atmosphere. Global warming could cause average temperatures to rise, causing droughts, crop failures, lower water levels and more frequent and severe storms.

A car gives off less carbon dioxide than a larger vehicle, such as an airplane, truck, bus or train, does. However, because so many people own cars and drive them so often, cars are responsible for nearly half the carbon dioxide produced by all forms of transportation. Vehicles that carry large numbers of passengers, such as buses, produce less carbon dioxide per passenger than cars.

As a driver, you can help to protect the environment from the harmful effects of driving by following these suggestions. Many of them can also save you money. For further information visit the Fleetsmart website.

Before you drive

  • Plan ahead. Combine several errands into one trip.
  • Avoid driving during rush hours. Driving in off-peak times takes less time, uses less fuel and releases fewer emissions.
  • Pay attention to smog alerts. It is especially important to follow these suggestions on days when smog is bad.
  • For short trips, consider walking or cycling.
  • For longer trips, public transit is an environmentally friendly alternative to driving alone.
  • Carpool whenever possible. If you want to meet at a central location, there are free carpool lots in many parts of the province.

While driving

  • Avoid starting your vehicle unnecessarily. A large burst of pollutants is emitted when a cold engine is started.
  • Turn off your vehicle if parked more than 10 seconds. Even in cold weather, vehicle engines warm up within 30 seconds.
  • Obey the speed limits. Driving at high speed uses more fuel and increases your chances of a serious collision.
  • On the freeway, use your vehicle’s overdrive gear and cruise control for better fuel efficiency.
  • Remove unnecessary weight from your vehicle, such as heavy baggage, wet snow and winter sand or salt.
  • Maintain your vehicle’s aerodynamics. Remove roof racks and compartments when not in use. At high speeds, use your vents instead of opening the windows.
  • Use your vehicle’s air conditioning wisely. Use your windows and vents in city and stop-and-go traffic. At high speeds, using your air conditioning is usually more fuel efficient than opening your windows and reducing the vehicle’s aerodynamics.
  • Don't “top-off” the tank when refueling. Spilled fuel releases harmful vapours.

At the garage

  • Regular maintenance will keep your vehicle running at maximum efficien­cy, reducing the fuel you need to buy and the pollutants your vehicle emits.
  • Keep your vehicle’s engine well tuned. Worn spark plugs, dragging brakes, low transmission fluid or a transmission not going into high gear can increase fuel consumption substantially.
  • Follow the recommended maintenance schedule in your vehicle owner’s manual to maximize fuel efficiency.
  • Have any fluid leaks checked by a specialist to avoid engine damage and harming the environment.
  • Keep your tires properly inflated to reduce your fuel bill, emissions and tire wear.
  • Have your vehicle’s alignment checked regularly to reduce uneven tire wear and fuel consumption.

(For more information on driving efficiently, see the section on maintaining your vehicle).

Drivers are reminded that many collisions occur when the driving environment is less than optimal. Whether driving at night, during times of reduced visibility or when road conditions are wet and slippery, drivers are encouraged to use the appropriate safe-driving tips provided in this handbook.

10 ways you can help make Ontario’s roads the safest in North America

  1. Don't drink and drive. Don't drive when you're taking medication that will affect your driving.
  2. Always wear your seatbelt and make sure passengers are using the appropriate child car seat,booster seat or seatbelt.
  3. Obey the speed limits. Slow down when road and weather conditions are poor.
  4. Don't take risks: don't cut people off in traffic, make sudden lane changes or run yellow lights.
  5. Don't drive when you're tired, upset or sick.
  6. If you're in doubt, let the other driver go first - yield the right-of-way.
  7. Keep at least a two-second space between your vehicle and the one ahead. To check your distance: start counting when the vehicle ahead passes a fixed object, stop counting when your vehicle reaches the same spot.
  8. Cut the distractions: don't overcrowd the vehicle or play loud music.
  9. Always check your blind spot: look in your mirror and over your shoulder before you change lanes.
  10. Check traffic in all directions, including any sidewalks and paths/trails, before entering an intersection.


By the end of this section, you should know:

  • How passenger vehicles affect the environment
  • Ways to reduce the amount you drive
  • Ways to conserve fuel and reduce emissions when you drive