No Idling at CarTakeBack

Posted on 11 October 2019 by CarTakeBack

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When colleagues heard we were writing a blog on idling, they looked rather defensive and were quick to point out how hard everyone works… So, just to put your minds at ease folks - the idling we're referring to is running a car's engine when it's not moving!

So why do we care about that? Well, unlike having a slightly idle day and taking a longer tea break, idling your car can have a massive effect on the environment and everyone's health!

The whole subject has been in and out of the media a lot recently, so we thought you might appreciate a break-down of the main info and we'll even put some idle myths to bed!

Let's cover the tough stuff first - The Law!

Stationary idling is an offence under the Road Traffic Act 1988… The Act enforces rule 123 of the Highway Code, which states: "You must not leave a vehicle’s engine running unnecessarily while that vehicle is stationary on a public road." 

Car exhaust

The Fine

Across most of the UK, idling can incur a £20 fixed-penalty fine, which goes up to £40 if unpaid within a given time frame. That fine could increase in the near future!

The standard fine can be as much as £80 in certain areas of London where extra measures to cut road emissions are being introduced.

In fact, some central London boroughs are pushing the government to punish companies whose drivers are repeatedly caught idling with fines of more than £1,000, as delivery drivers and commercial vehicles are considered to be the worst offenders.

As the law currently stands these fines are only imposed if a motorist refuses to switch off their engine when asked to do so by an authorised person.

Why does it matter?

Quite simply, idling engines increase the amount of exhaust fumes in the air; up to twice the emissions of a car that’s in motion!

It's now believed that poor air quality is the biggest environmental risk to public health in the UK. Exhaust fumes contain several harmful gasses including carbon dioxide, which is bad for the environment, as well as a range of other harmful gasses including nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons, which are linked to asthma, heart disease and even lung cancer. The effects have shown to be even more damaging to children.

The Royal College of Physicians estimate 40,000 deaths a year in the UK are linked to air pollution with engine idling contributing to this.

What is the government doing?

The Department for Transport is looking to introduce further measures to put a stop to unnecessary air pollution. A spokesperson for the Department for Transport said: “We are determined to reduce the damaging environmental impacts of drivers who keep their engines running while stationary, especially those in school zones."

Many local authorities in London have been involved in 'idling action events', with drivers approached and asked to switch off their engines when parked.

Councils across the country are looking to proactively tackle the law in their regions and you may well have heard about it on your local news.

No Idling sign

What can you do?

Obviously not every person reading this will look after a fleet of commercial vehicles! But every single person making an effort not to idle their engine will make a difference…

Here's CarTakeBack's top tips around idling:

  • You don't have to cut your engine at every red light, just consider how long you're probably going to be stationary for. The RAC recommendation is to turn off your engines if you think you won't move for around two minutes. Waiting for children outside of schools and traffic jams are two standard examples where many of us are guilty of unnecessary idling.
  • If you have a relatively new car it's probably fitted with a 'stop-start' system that automatically switches off the engine when the vehicle is stationary and restarts it when the accelerator is pressed. This feature can be manually switched off, but simply leave it on and your car will avoid idling for you!
  • If you drive an older vehicle, without ‘stop-start’, do turn off your engine off yourself, but try to avoid too many re-starts in a short space of time. If your car is over eight years old you will need to take extra care.

Dispelling the stop-start myths!

Although older vehicles (generally over ten years old) will use more fuel when starting, and this varies from model to model, for the majority of drivers of the road, switching off your engine in traffic will not adversely affect your fuel economy!

If you drive a car with a stop-start system the battery will also be fine - the engine automatically restarts to ensure the battery is kept fully charged.

So, rather than waiting for a fine or a new law, let's all make the effort to think about idling (the car kind!) and switch off when we know we should. Every single switch-off will help to improve air quality, for the environment and for our health. It's what we'd call a no-brainer!

…And if of course you decide your old car is ready to go, we can help - that's another no-brainer from the CarTakeBack team!

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