‘Drive smart’ to reduce harmful air pollution, says NICE

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has recommended lorry and bus drivers to drive ‘smoothly’ to help reduce air pollution, in new draft guidance.

The draft guidance

The draft guidance covers road-traffic-related air pollution

NICE is calling on businesses and transport services to educate their transport staff in more efficient ‘smooth’ driving skills, such as avoiding hard accelerations or decelerations and turning their engine off when at a standstill.

According to the Institute, accelerating or decelerating too rapidly leads to inefficient driving and fuel consumption with harmful emissions being released into the environment unnecessarily.

Guidelines

The NICE draft guidance is currently out for public consultation and covers road-traffic-related air pollution and its links to ill health.

Other recommendations include that local councils place buildings away from busy roads when drafting town or city plans and that cyclists should be screened from traffic by shrubs or plants in situations where they are found to reduce air pollution.

Consultancy firm Eunomia and the University of the West of England (UWE) were appointed to research the cost and effectiveness of measures available to local authorities to tackle air pollution from road transport.

Their analysis suggests that the benefits may outweigh the costs for some air quality interventions under certain circumstances. Interventions evaluated  included off-road cycle paths, street washing and sweeping, motorway speed restrictions, bypass construction, motorway barriers, road closures, Low Emission Zones (LEZ) and vehicle idling.

Professor Mark Baker, director of the centre for guidelines at NICE said: “The battle against air pollution has to be one we are all fully committed to.

“This draft guidance seeks to redesign how we work and live in cities. When finalised, its recommendations will ensure that everyone who has the power to make the changes required can be confident in the action they are taking.”

Impact

Being exposed to short-term and long-term air pollution can have a significant health impact, with harmful emissions and the environmental risks associated with pollution linked to around 25,000 deaths a year in England, NICE has claimed.

Road traffic causes more than 64% of air pollution in urban areas according to the Royal Colleges of Physicians and of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH).

Professor Paul Lincoln, chief executive of UK health forum and NICE guideline committee chair said: “Traffic-related air pollution is a major risk to the publics’ health and contributes to health inequalities.

“The NICE guidance sets out a strategic range of evidence based practical measures to encourage low or zero emissions transport. This is very timely given the imperative to meet EU and national air quality standards.”

NICE’s draft recommendations on tackling air pollution are out for public consultation until 25 January 2017.

‘Tinkering around the edges’

Responding to the NICE draft guidance, Jenny Bates, air pollution campaigner at Friends of the Earth said: “While NICE is rightly saying schools and nurseries must be built away from busy roads, we must deal with the real crux of the issue and reduce air pollution levels, not just learn to avoid the worst of it.

“Action is needed both to ensure vehicles on the road are clean and that there are fewer of them – diesel vehicles, which are the most polluting, must be phased out and our transport and planning policy needs a radical overhaul.

“This is no time for tinkering around the edges – to deal with this public health crisis we must plan our towns and cities in ways which actually reduces traffic and gives people real alternatives to driving.”

Related links

Draft Guidance

Consultation