Drivers are ‘wasting fuel’ and could face £80 fines for common habit

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Parents have been warned to wrap-up warm to avoid fines at the school gates after research found that more than one in 10 could be at risk of being fined for picking their kids up. Some people admitted to leaving their engine running when waiting for their kids at the school gates, but many could unknowingly be fined for this simple and seemingly innocent action.

Idling, the term used for leaving a vehicle’s engine running while it is stationary, is banned at schools because it creates harmful emissions that contribute to air pollution and can damage children’s health. 

Motorists are being urged to wrap up with extra coats, hats and gloves so they don’t need to keep the engine running to fuel the heater.

Research by found 11 percent of drivers fail to turn off their engines while waiting outside school – therefore committing the offence. 

Drivers who breach the law by leaving their engines running unnecessarily, risk receiving a £20 penalty notice that will double if not paid in full within 28 days.

The charges are even higher in London, where motorists are issued with a £40 fine that can increase to £80 if not settled within a two-week period.

Greg Wilson, Founder of said: “It can be tempting to leave the engine running during the colder, darker months when the car is bright and cosy.

“But drivers need to be aware that by running their engines, they are wasting fuel and potentially damaging the health of the school children who may be breathing in harmful fumes.

“Vehicle emissions are especially harmful for kids as they breathe more rapidly than adults and therefore take in more pollution.

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“They’re also costing themselves money by burning fuel they could be conserving and that’s not to mention the long-term damage to the environment and the air quality.” 

The RAC states that fines are only imposed only if a motorist refuses to switch off their engine when asked to do so by an authorised person. Around 44 percent of drivers support the measure. 

Idling is covered in the Highway Code under Rule 123, which states that drivers must not 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, they should apply the parking brake and switch off the engine to reduce emissions and noise pollution. 

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However it is permissible to leave the engine running if the vehicle is stationary in traffic or for diagnosing faults in the event of a breakdown.

The legality of idling on a private driveway depends on its classification as a road, with the rules not being entirely clear as to when fines would apply.

Annex four of the Highway Code states that references to road are those which “generally include footpaths, bridleways and cycle tracks, and many roadways and driveways on private land (including many car parks)”.

RAC roads policy spokesperson Nicholas Lyes said: “No idling zones, and the idea that local authorities should think about replacing speed humps which cause motorists to brake and then accelerate again with other safety measures to slow vehicles down, are eminently sensible suggestions.

“Both have the potential to improve the quality of air locally. Empowering town and city planners to consider air quality when it comes to the location and new developments and infrastructure is also critical.

“Whether it is outside schools, picking up relatives from stations, or in a car park, we can all do our bit by switching off our engines and reducing our emissions.”

Many campaigners have called for councils to adopt the measures being taken by Westminster Council, who have installed signage around the borough alerting people to the risk of fines.

According to the Westminster City Council, an idling car produces enough emissions to fill 150 balloons a minute. Furthermore, it said that buses, taxis, vans, cars and delivery vehicles produce more than half of the deadliest emissions in the air.

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