Little-known Highway Code rule can see drivers fined for ‘relying on air con’
Idling is when a driver leaves their vehicle’s engine running when it is stationary, oftentimes when waiting to pick someone up or in standstill traffic, which can lead to them being fined.
A video recently went viral on TikTok which saw two people shouting at each other after one of them was accused of leaving their car idling.
The mother said she had left the engine on to keep the air conditioning running for her sleeping child, with an angry bystander accusing her of being “inconsiderate”.
It is against the law to keep the engine idling when they are stopped in traffic or parked, under Section 42 of the Road Traffic Act 1988.
Graham Conway, managing director at Select Car Leasing, warned that drivers can be hit with an instant £20 fine if they are idling.
If someone is on a public road and they are caught idling their vehicle, and they choose not to pay the fine on time, it can rise to £80.
Mr Conway added: “Engine idling appears to be a really contentious issue for a lot of motorists, so you’re wise to be aware of the consequences – even if you’re relying on the air conditioning system to cool your car’s cabin.
“Idling causes petrol and diesel engines to release unnecessary exhaust gases into the air, such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and hydrocarbons.
“All of these gases are harmful to the environment and are linked to diseases such as lung disease and asthma.”
It is estimated that the harmful gases released from idling could be enough to fill up 150 balloons per minute.
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The Highway Code addresses “the driver and the environment” and instructs drivers not to leave a vehicle engine running unnecessarily while it is stationary.
If the vehicle is stationary and is likely to remain so for more than a couple of minutes, drivers should apply the parking brake and switch off the engine to reduce emissions.
In some instances, including in traffic or when diagnosing faults, it is “permissible” to leave the engine running when the vehicle is stationary, Rule 123 states.
As Mr Conway points out, there could be some dispute over what is deemed “unnecessary” when leaving the engine running.
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He suggested that if drivers are going to be parked up for 30 seconds or more, they should turn the engine off, especially if they are waiting for someone or in a parking bay.
In reference to the viral TikTok, Graham stated that both parties are in the wrong, suggesting that people should leave any incidents to the relevant authorities.
He said: “Let the authorities deal with any road infractions and don’t be sucked into an argument yourself.
“And if you do have a sleeping child in the back of the car that needs cold air, perhaps it’s better to get them out of the vehicle so they can rest somewhere cool elsewhere.”
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