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What can I do about idling vehicles?

Idling can be very frustrating!

It's nearly always unnecessary, it causes pollution that's harmful to human health, it's a nuisance, and it's an offence under the Road Traffic Regulations. 

On this page you'll find:

What can I do about idling?

You could try some of the following in your neighbourhood / school / hospital:

  • Ask drivers to switch off. When approached in a friendly way, around 85% of drivers switch off when asked. See the tips for being effective at getting drivers to switch off in the section below.

  • Contact your local authority pollution team to ask if they have an anti-idling campaign in your borough. They may be able to arrange an event in your neighbourhood / at your school.

  • Download the Idling Action toolkit and run an event yourself, especially if you have other keen volunteers. It has posters, leaflets and other resources you can use for your campaign.

  • Report persistent idlers to your local authority pollution team. If someone is idling at a certain time on a regular basis, the local authority should be able to send along an enforcement officer.

  • Banners, posters and signs can help raise awareness. You can put up banners and posters in idling hotspots, and ask your local authority if they can put up some signage.

  • Encourage children to design an anti-idling poster / banner. Messages directly from the children can often be more effective at getting behaviour change.

How can I be effective at getting drivers to switch off?

People are more likely to listen if you're friendly. Follow the tips below, and they should help you achieve an 80-90% success rate. The 10-20% that don't switch off will give you a reason (which may be true or not) about why they need to run the engine, or they will tell you they were just leaving anyway. But most people will be reasonable if you approach in a friendly way.

  • Smile when you approach (people are less likely to get cross if you're smiling).

  • Encourage them to do something positive (you can help improve local air quality by switching off) rather than telling them off and being negative (which is our natural instinct as idling is so frustrating!).

  • Give them a fact that might change their behaviour permanently e.g. did you know that pollution can stunt child lung growth, so it's always good to switch off, especially near schools. Or did you know that when you idle, the pollution can come back inside the vehicle?

What do the Regulations say?

Drivers are required to switch off engines in parked vehicles (Regulation 98 of the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986, as amended). 

Local authorities have the power to issue a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) to a driver who is idling their engine unnecessarily and refuses to switch off when asked by an ‘authorised officer’, according to the Road Traffic (Vehicle Emissions) (Fixed Penalty) Regulations 2002.

Some local authorities have made an Experimental Traffic Order so that they can enforce idling through Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs), which can provide a greater deterrent, as they have a higher fine of £80 (compared to an FPN which is just £20). However as with FPNs, they can only be given out if the driver refuses to switch off.

CWC Environmental does not think that the idling regulations are effective as they currently are, and is campaigning for the regulations to be updated. A big awareness raising campaign also needs to be undertaken by TfL and the Mayor of London so that people understand why they must always switch off when parked.

 

CWC's Idling campaigns

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Tackling idling at schools

We've worked with over 50 schools on idling projects. We:

  • give lessons on the effects of pollution on children

  • train parents to become Clean Air Champions

  • then run events at school drop-off and pick up time where we explain to drivers why it's always better for child health if they switch off when parked.

Anti-idling campaigns at hospitals and bus garages

Ambulance and bus drivers provide a great service to the general public, but while doing their job, they are exposed to high levels of pollution during their working day.

One way they can reduce their exposure is to not idle. After they see our personal exposure monitoring results showing what happens to pollution levels when they idle, they understand why it's best to switch off. As a result of our training, hundreds have made the 'no idling' pledge.

Idling Action campaign with 18 local authorities

We've been delivering the Idling Action campaign for 3 years, on behalf of 18 local authorities.


We've trained hundreds of Clean Air Champions, and engaged with thousands of drivers. And to help share the experience with others, we developed the Idling Action toolkits which have had hundreds of downloads.

 

Idling campaign imagery

Who is your target audience, who are they most likely to listen to, and what are the most effective messages?

These are questions we ask at the start of the development of our campaigns.

Bus driver idling campaign

This eye-catching leaflet really stands out in the bus garage.  The message is short and to the point, with longer explanatory text on the back.

Vehicle Idling Action logo

This branding was created to be appealing to all our audiences: from schools and hospitals to businesses and local residents.
The branding was used on all posters, leaflets and collateral.

No Idling street signage

We created a no idling zone around Great Ormond Street Hospital.
Drivers told us they'd be more likely to switch off if the message came from the patients themselves.
This signage was inspired by artwork created by respiratory patients at the hospital.