Drivers who leave their engines idling could face instant fines

Environment Secretary supports council moves to issue fines without warning to drivers who leave their engines running

Drivers who leave their engines running unnecessarily could face instant fines after the Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, said he supported council initiatives for tackling urban pollution. 

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.

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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.”

Speaking to The Times, Gove said he supported Westminster’s request to issue instant fines without warning to drivers who have been previously caught leaving their engines running unnecessarily. Gove added that any new powers given to local authorities to tackle the issue should be used proportionately.

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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…