Quarter of parents leave their car engines idling outside schools

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Idle drivers: More than a quarter of parents say they leave their car


More than one in four parents and guardians have admitted to leaving their car’s engine running while waiting at the gates to pick up their children from school.

With vehicle emissions closely linked to respiratory and other health issues among children and adults, councils across the country have displayed ‘no idling’ signs outside schools with the threat of fines of up to £80 for those who flout the rules.

But as schools restart during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and more mums and dads admit they’ll be driving their kids rather than using public transport, analysis suggests the problem could severely worsen.

Idle drivers: More than a quarter of parents say they leave their car’s engine running while waiting outside school, despite the ongoing reports that vehicle emissions increase the risk of health issues for adults and especially children

Studies by charity Unicef has estimated that one in three children in the UK grow up breathing unsafe levels of air pollution.

That could intensify now that 62 per cent of parents say they are more likely to drive their children to and from school as a result of the recent pandemic, according to a new poll by French car maker Renault.

It revealed that of the 4,000 parents it studied 27 per cent leave their engines idling during the school run. 

Many may not realise that by leaving the engine running for convenience or to keep the heater or air conditioning running that they are contributing to harmful particle emmissions that can damage children. 

Dads are 50 per cent more likely to do it than mums, it found, with a third of men saying they don’t switch their car engine off while waiting for their children, compared to one in five (22 per cent) of women.

Renault studies the habits and attitudes of school run parents as part of its new ‘Be Mindful, Don’t Idle’ campaign to improve the dangerous air pollution levels measured outside more than 8,500 schools, nurseries and colleges in England, Scotland and Wales. 

Renault has launched a campaign around engine idling after the French car maker found that 62% of parents say they are more likely to drive their children to and from school as a result of the recent pandemic

Renault has launched a campaign around engine idling after the French car maker found that 62% of parents say they are more likely to drive their children to and from school as a result of the recent pandemic

Of the reasons given for leaving their engines running nearly a third cited doing so because they are only stationary for ‘a short while’ and a quarter said they wanted to keep the heater or air-con going.

Some 23 per cent said they needed to be ready to move their car into one of the limited available parking spaces near schools.  

Alarmingly, 60 per cent of all drivers are unaware that it is illegal to leave their vehicle’s engine to idle under Rule 123 of the Highways Code. 

Authorities can now issue fixed penalties of between £20 and £80 under Road Traffic Regulations 2002 and Section 42 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 in Scotland. 

Councils can issue fines of anything between £20 an £80 in England, Scotland and Wales if drivers are caught with their engines running while they're parked up

Councils can issue fines of anything between £20 an £80 in England, Scotland and Wales if drivers are caught with their engines running while they’re parked up

The issue of idling is greatest within built-up urban and suburban areas according to Renault. 

Half of those live in cities, yet 12 per cent of those in rural areas admit to doing it regularly. 

By leaving their engines idling for just 10 seconds, drivers are wasting more fuel than restarting the car’s engine, says a report by EDF Energy.

Half of those found to keep their motors running claim to do so for one to five minutes. Almost seven per cent estimate they can do it for up to 15 minutes on average.

A 2019 study by Kings College London revealed that children in London travelling to schools across the capital are exposed to air pollution five times higher than at any other time of the day. 

Renault found that London accounted for the highest number of idling offenders, totalling 23 per cent.   

A 2019 study found that children in London travelling to schools across the capital are exposed to air pollution five times higher than at any other time of the day

A 2019 study found that children in London travelling to schools across the capital are exposed to air pollution five times higher than at any other time of the day

Matt Shirley, Renault’s senior manager for electrification and new mobility, said: ‘The fact that the majority of people don’t realise that idling is illegal just highlights the scale of the problem.

‘Every minute a car is idling it produces enough emissions to fill 150 balloons. It goes without saying, if the 27 per cent of school run journeys stop idling, there would be a significant improvement in the air quality for their children.

According to the study, a quarter of all school runs are less than a mile in distance. However, more than half (54 per cent) are between one and five miles. 

‘This is not about demonising the school run, our study underlines the importance, even more so since lockdown, of the car,’ Mr Shirley added.

‘We just want parents and guardians to be mindful of the detrimental impact of idling, and to alter their behaviours for their own children and those around them.’ 

Volvo cars now fitted with new Advanced Air Cleaners to block harmful emissions particles

Swedish car maker Volvo has introduced ‘world-first premium air-quality technology’ to its cars that eliminates tiny emissions particles that have been sucked into the cabin. 

The company’s new Advanced Air Cleaner technology comes with a sensor that measures minuscule Particulate Matter – known as PM 2.5 –  levels. 

When it detects high levels it cleans out the fine particles from the cabin using a synthetic fibre-based filter and ionisation. This is said to remove up to 95 per cent of all PM 2.5 from the cabin.  

Volvo's new Advanced Air Cleaner technology comes with a sensor that measures minuscule Particlate Matter - known as PM 2.5 - levels, which is displayed on the infotainment screen

Volvo’s new Advanced Air Cleaner technology comes with a sensor that measures minuscule Particlate Matter – known as PM 2.5 – levels, which is displayed on the infotainment screen

When the system detects high levels of PM 2.5 it cleans out the fine particles using a synthetic fibre-based filter and ionisation. This is said to remove up to 95% of the toxic emissions

When the system detects high levels of PM 2.5 it cleans out the fine particles using a synthetic fibre-based filter and ionisation. This is said to remove up to 95% of the toxic emissions

‘With our Advanced Air Cleaner technology, you can rest assured that the air you breathe inside your Volvo is cleaner and healthier,’ said Anders Löfvendahl, senior technical expert on cabin air quality at Volvo. 

‘We believe that clean air is good for you, both from a health and from a safety perspective, and we will continue to push the envelope in this area.’ 

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