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Is Council Threat to Fine Drivers That Let Engines Idle Empty?

By Stephen Turvil | August 28, 2018


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Councils that want to improve air quality threaten to fine drivers that refuse to switch of their engine; but do they?

Is Council Threat to Fine Drivers That Let Engines Idle Empty?

Air pollution fines

The Westminster City Council #DontBeIdle Campaign puts it first among the increasing number of local councils which threaten to fine motorists that refuse to switch off their engine while stationary to minimise air pollution - but is this an empty threat?

London Live, after all, claimed the council only issued 28 of its £80 fines in the year to March 2018. The Times further suggested that some of the other 30 councils that have such powers show little interest in fining motorists. Kensington and Chelsea City Council issued 1 fine, for example. The City of London issued none.

#DontBeIdle Campaign

The #DontBeIdle Campaign claims that motorists, their fellow citizens and the environment benefit if they switch off their engines while parked rather than idle. Switch off as you wait at the roadside to collect a friend, for instance. Why? Because it argues vehicles which idle unnecessary increase the pollution that:

  • Causes premature death via conditions such as lung disease 
  • Exacerbates health complaints such as asthma 
  • Wastes fuel which is an expensive, limited, resource 
  • Increases vehicle wear and tear 

The #DontBeIdle Campaign also incorporates a simple, attention grabbing, statistic to emphasise its message. It therefore says for every minute a car idles it produces enough emissions to fill 150 balloons. The council also wants people to “spread the word” via a poster that can downloaded, printed then displayed at home or work.

Furthermore, air marshals are “out on the street talking to drivers”, Westminster City Council claims. Their purpose is to explain why it is preferable not to let vehicles idle unnecessarily. Motorists which refuse to switch off their engine can then be penalised. In addition, drivers can be reported online.

Is Council Threat to Fine Drivers That Let Engines Idle Empty? Image 0

Council leader comments

Leader of Westminster City Council, Nickie Aiken, reveals: “The city suffers from some of the worst pollution. We are, therefore, facing up to this problem and making tackling air quality a priority. That is why we have launched #DontBeIdle”, Ms Aiken adds.

RAC supports fines

RAC Head of Roads Policy, Nicholas Lyes, supports fines so is presumably keen for councils to enforce the environmental rhetoric and punish motorists in larger numbers. “Measures like this can play a big part in changing driver behaviour by encouraging them to really think about how they can reduce their emissions”, he argues.

“Our advice to drivers is always to switch the engine off when parked or stationary for lengthy periods. If a vehicle has stop-start technology, it should always be enabled”, Mr Lyes summarises.

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