Running your engine unnecessarily while your vehicle is stationary pollutes the environment. And it’s against the law on a public highway.
An idling engine can produce up to twice as many exhaust emissions as an engine in motion. Exhaust emissions contain a range of air pollutants such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and particulate matter. These can effect the air quality of the surrounding environment and the air we breathe.
Vehicle idling is an offence against the Road Traffic (Vehicle Emissions) (Fixed Penalty) (England) Regulations 2002. The law states that is an offence to idle your engine unnecessarily when stationary. If you fail to turn your engine off after being spoken to you may be issued with a fixed penalty notice of £20.
The legislation covers all vehicles on public roads including buses, taxis and private cars. It does NOT apply to vehicles moving slowly due to road works or congestion; vehicles stopped at traffic lights; vehicles under test or repair; or defrosting a windscreen.
By turning off your engine you improve air quality, reduce fuels costs and comply with the law.
Reducing air pollutants can help cut heart disease, reduce lung cancer and prevent asthma attacks.
Providing information and raising awareness – i.e. improved website and information for schools with a view to reducing car journeys to school and the idling of car engines outside schools. Please see What can we do to improve air quality? for further information. A Defra funded project has recently been completed to help with this initiative. The project report and the information posters designed for the project can be downloaded using the links below.
Reducing Vehicle Emissions – taking action to reduce idling vehicles and report smoky vehicles.
Helping to develop an infrastructure to encourage uptake of electric vehicles.
Does starting an engine cause more pollution than idling? No. Turning off an engine and restarting it after a minute or two (or longer) causes less pollution than keeping the engine idling and uses less fuel.
Does the engine need to stay on to keep the battery fully charged? No. Modern batteries need less engine running time.
When it’s cold I need to keep my vehicle warm or warm up my engine It can take up to an hour for an engine to cool down. Turning off your engine, but keeping the ignition and the fan blowing will provide warm air for some time. If you are concerned about passenger comfort, keep the engine idling to an absolute minimum in warm and cold weather.
Do catalytic converters need to be hot to work properly? Yes, but an idling engine does not keep a catalytic converter warm. They retain their heat for about 25 minutes after an engine is switched off anyway.