Motorists could face higher fines for idling

Motorists who leave their engines running idle could face higher fines under new proposals by the Department for Transport (DfT).

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling says he will launch a public consultation this summer looking at increasing fines as a way to stop drivers idling, which is a major cause of air pollution in busy urban areas.

The RAC says idling engines produce levels of CO2, NO2 and PM2.5 over two times as many as those in motion, with most instances coming from ‘avoidable’ road situations such as waiting to pick someone up outside a workplace or school.

It’s been an offence to leave a ‘vehicle engine running unnecessarily’ since 1986, and powers were handed to councils in 2002 in England to issue fixed penalty notices of £20 if motorists refuse to turn their engine off when asked to by a traffic warden.

However, in practice enforcement has been difficult and it’s not clear how increasing the fine will reduce idling, though the DfT says they will provide better guidance to local authorities on their anti-idling powers, enabling them to enforce the law more effectively.

An AirQualityNews investigation revealed that of the five councils who said they were actively fining motorists throughout 2018, only a handful of fines were issued, with campaigners saying the current system is ‘not fit for purpose’.

Responding to the DfT’s proposals, a Local Government Association spokesperson said: ‘Councils have prioritised changing behaviour by educating motorists, which is often more effective than issuing fines.

‘As part of their review of air quality legislation the government should look again at whether these powers are working how they intended and whether they could be made simpler to use while still being fair to the motorist.’

In March, Public Health England (PHE) published a review of evidence on how to improve air quality which recommended councils ban vehicles from idling outside pollution hotspots such as schools or hospitals.

The review also said that local authorities must work better together to tackle pollution as ‘air pollutants don’t respect borders,’ adding there is little benefit in reducing air pollution in one place but seeing it dispersed elsewhere.