DfT “seriously considering” instant fines for drivers who leave engines idling

Instant fines could be issued to drivers who leave engines idling, with the DfT set to meet council representatives to discuss policy

The Department for Transport (DfT) is “seriously considering” instant fines for drivers who leave their engines idling, a transport minister has said.

Jesse Norman MP, Minister of State for Transport, told Auto Express that, while he was not willing to “pre-empt any announcement”, the issue of idling engines is being looked at by the DfT.

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A spokesperson for Westminster City Council – which has requested powers to issue instant fines without warning to drivers who are caught leaving their engines running unnecessarily, and particularly to repeat offenders – also confirmed that representatives from both the DfT and the council are set to meet later in May to discuss the matter.

The council says that such a policy would be enforced by its parking marshals, who would first talk to an offending driver and request that they turn their engine off, only issuing a fine as a “last resort” to those that refuse to comply.

That said, if the policy were to be implemented on a local or national level, the legislation might dictate that other enforcement methods are used, with councils either using their own employees or possibly working with the police.

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Environment Secretary Michael Gove told the Times he supported Westminster’s request to issue instant fines for the offence, while adding that any new powers given to local authorities to tackle the issue should be used proportionately.

Leaving engines running without good reason is already illegal, with the Highway Code stating drivers “must not…leave a vehicle engine running unnecessarily while that vehicle is stationary on a public road.” This rule is backed up by the Road Traffic Act of 1988. Fines for the offence are £20 by default, but can increase to £80 if local authority officers target persistent transgressors.

But even Westminster Council, which has taken a stricter line against idling than other authorities, issued just 20 fines last year. Research by This Is Money, meanwhile, found that just 494 people have been fined for the offence since 2015. Camden council in London has issued over 400 warnings over the last year, but voiced support for instant fines, saying they would send “a very clear message that drivers across the land would hear.”

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Nicki Aiken, the leader of Westminster council, went so far as to say penalties for idling business vehicles, such as delivery vans, should be a “four figure sum” in order to be a “sufficient deterrent”.

The Department for Transport told the Times it is “determined to reduce the damaging environmental impacts of drivers who keep their engines running while stationary, especially those in school zones.” The DfT added it would be “polling local authorities to understand how any potential review of these powers may look in the future.”

Should instant fines be given to drivers who leave their engines running? Let us know in the comments…