60% of drivers don't know leaving your engine running while stationary is illegal

Research has found that 60 per cent of drivers in the UK were unaware that sitting in a stationary vehicle while leaving the engine running is illegal. Also revealed was that men on the school run were 50 per cent more likely to leave the engine running than women.

Conducted by Renault, the research was part of the company’s ‘Be Mindful, Don’t Idle’ campaign, aimed at helping to improve air quality around schools and appealing to drivers to check their habits when dropping children off at school.

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The study found that 62 per cent of drivers say that Covid-19 has increased the likelihood of driving their children to school. One in three children in the UK breathes unsafe levels of air pollution, with the research showing that a lack of parking space near schools fuels idling in urban areas.

What is idling?

Idling refers to a car’s engine running when the car is not moving. This usually occurs when waiting at a red light, waiting outside a building in a pickup area, and waiting in school zones.

Running your engine unnecessarily while your vehicle is stationary pollutes the environment, and can produce twice as many exhaust emissions as an engine in motion. These emissions contain a range of air pollutants such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter.

Is idling illegal?

Leaving an engine idling is an offence under Section 42 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. The Act enforces rule 123 of the Highway Code, which states, “You must not leave a vehicle engine running unnecessarily while the vehicle is stationary on a public road.”

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Local authorities in the UK currently have the power to fine drivers. Drivers can face a penalty of up to £80 after a continuing offence, meaning if they fail to turn their engine off after being spoken to by a warden.

The government last year announced plans to toughen the rules on vehicle idling in a bid to tackle vehicle pollution in communities, particularly outside school gates where children are breathing in this toxic air.

How to stop engine idling

Always evaluate how long you might be stationary when in traffic. If you think you’ll be stuck for longer than two minutes, then turn off your engine. Many cars now come equipped with stop-start engine systems that automatically turn the engine off when in a standstill position.

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