Not switching off your engine could mean an instant fine

idling cars

Sitting in your car with the engine idling could land you with an instant fine, if new proposals take effect.

Current fines range from £20 to £80, and are only handed out if prior warnings to turn off your engine aren’t heeded. Local councils such as Camden in London, however, are now calling for on-the-spot fines. And Westminster council is proposing fines of £1,000 to companies whose drivers are repeatedly caught idling. 

“Having spoken to more than 20,000 drivers so far, our air quality marshals found that most who idle, do so out of habit,” said Westminster council leader Nickie Aiken.

“Once they know the damage it causes, including the health risks, and they’re asked to switch off the engine, they do so and think twice before idling again. Fines should be a last resort – we prefer to ask nicely.”

idling cars

It’s suggested that guidance will be established and issued in order for local authorities to effectively – and fairly – enforce new legislation should it go through. Nonetheless, the severity of enforcement is likely to vary depending on local area. 

“We are determined to reduce the damaging environmental impacts of drivers who keep their engines running while stationary, especially those in school zones,” said a Department for Transport spokesperson.

“This is why we are making guidance for local authorities clearer, so they know how and when to target drivers falling foul of the law. We will also be polling local authorities to understand how any potential review of these powers may look in future.”

You won’t get a fine for idling in traffic

CO2 emissions

Westminster council says an idling car produces enough gas to fill up to 150 balloons a minute. Also, engines can emit twice as much at idle as they do in motion. 

Idling is bad for engines, too. Inefficient internal combustion is what raises emissions, and can increase wear on engine components. Car engines aren’t generators; they’re at their happiest when under load, and at speed.

That being said, older cars don’t like to be turned on and off repeatedly. So this new legislation will not apply to cars in traffic, only when parked.