Idling drivers could face bigger fines

Drivers who leave their engines running while stationary could face tougher penalties under new government proposals.

Councils already have the power to fine drivers for idling, but the Department for Transport (DfT) is looking to increase those powers to help put a stop to unnecessary air pollution.

Vehicle idling is a major factor in poor air quality, especially in areas with large numbers of waiting vehicles, such as outside schools and at taxi ranks and bus stations.

Currently idling motorists can be handed a fixed penalty notice of £20, which rises to £40 if unpaid after 28 days, the Daily Mirror reports.

This amount has not changed since 2002 and is “well below fine levels for similar offences”, officials said.

The new penalty level has not yet been announced, but it’s thought that enforcement will focus on particular areas, like schools.

Rule 123 of the Highway Code states that drivers must not leave a parked vehicle unattended with the engine running or leave a vehicle engine running unnecessarily while that vehicle is stationary on a public road.

“Generally, if the vehicle is stationary and is likely to remain so for more than a couple of minutes, you should apply the parking brake and switch off the engine to reduce emissions and noise pollution,” the Highway Code explains.

“However it is permissible to leave the engine running if the vehicle is stationary in traffic or for diagnosing faults.”

Poor air quality is the biggest environmental risk to public health in the UK, according to the DfT. Every minute, an idling car produces enough exhaust emissions to fill 150 balloons with harmful chemicals, including cyanide, NOx and PM2.5. These microscopic pollutants can result in a range of health problems — from heart and lung disease to strokes and cancer — and have been shown to be particularly damaging to children.

The consultation, expected to launch this summer, will also explore how to deal with repeat offenders who keep their engines running following several warnings.

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