Drivers who leave engines running to clear screens face fines under 'idling offence' rules

'Inefficient': Motorists who leave their car engines running could be fined

Motorists who leave their cars running on frosty mornings to warm up the engine and clear the windscreen could face being fined under anti-pollution rules this winter.

Drivers are being told that leaving a car idling for more than a couple of minutes wastes fuel, and they could be served with on-the-spot fines of up to £40.

However motoring groups  have warned the rules should not be used to stop responsible motorists leaving engines ticking over while they remove ice and condensation from windows.

Many councils now enforce the 'stationary idling offence', which was quietly introduced by the Government in 2002.

It is particularly aimed at drivers of buses and taxis who sometimes leave engines running for half-an-hour or more while waiting for passengers, pumping out pollution unnecessarily.

One of the latest authorities considering imposing the rules is Sefton council in Merseyside.

It says running engines while a vehicle is not moving is an 'inefficient use of fuel' and results in the release of gases that have a 'negative effect on both climate change and public health'.

Fines will start at £20, doubling if they aren't paid within three weeks.

David Tattersall, executive member of its environmental committee, insisted officials wouldn't be fining motorists 'left, right and centre'.

'It is more about advising people to switch off their engines to reduce vehicle emissions and prevent air pollution,' he added.

'We have received a number of complaints from concerned members of the public about the pollution stationary vehicles give off, especially elderly buses and lorries.'

The fines can already be imposed by police, but Councillor Tattersall said they were major culprits themselves.

'In my opinion the worst offenders are police vehicles, who I often see just sitting there with their engines on.'

However local people are worried that the rules will be used across the board.

In the village of Birkdale, home of the famous golf course, traders fear motorists queuing at the level crossing will be targeted, deterring them from visiting.

'I understand the reasons and thinking behind this proposal but I believe it is very heavy-handed,' said Robert Uffendell, chairman of Birkdale Village Business Partnership. 

'Why should motorists be punished for stopping somewhere they didn't intend to stop?'

While Bill Richey, chairman of North Sefton Hackney Drivers' Association, commented: 'I can see the point of encouraging people to switch off their engines at level crossings as you can be kept waiting 15 minutes at a time.

'But from a taxi driver's point of view it is just not possible for us to sit there with our engines off in the winter months.

'We need to keep the car running to generate heat otherwise we'd catch hypothermia.' 

The fines enforce Rule 123 of the Highway Code, which says: 'If the vehicle is stationary and likely to remain so for more than a couple of minutes, you should switch off the engine to reduce emissions and oil pollution.'

But the AA has warned that they must be imposed with common sense.

'With frosty mornings at this time of year, motorists who park their cars on the street outside their home will need to run their engines to clear the windscreen, so it's important they aren't prevented from doing this,' a spokesman said.

'Also, if a car is idling for less than two or three minutes, it's actually more efficient to keep the engine on rather than switching it off and restarting it again.

'Not many people know about these regulations, but as long as they're enforced properly there are sound environmental reasons for them.'


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