It is usually tempting to leave your car running while running a quick errand. This is often convenient to the driver; saving time by not having to start-up the car after every stop. Sometimes the driver has no option but to keep the engine running; such as when you come across a red light. This however, is a major contributor to air pollution and has led to the introduction of guidelines to curb unnecessary engine idling.
Public Health England (PHE) and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) have proposed ‘clean air zones’ as a means to tackle rising levels of motor vehicle emissions in England. In these zones, the amount of emissions released into the atmosphere will determine whether a vehicle can be allowed access. Only zero and low-emission vehicles will have access to the clean zones. In accordance with the guidance, councils are to introduce ‘No vehicle idling’ zones as well. The purpose of these is to minimise emissions in the clean zones.
According to estimates by PHE, long term exposure to particulate air pollution is responsible for around 25,000 deaths in England. The health risks are especially more pronounced in children, the elderly and persons with respiratory conditions and heart problems. Bylaws will establish the clean zones in public areas that are frequented by the more vulnerable sections of the population. These areas include schools, hospitals and care homes. Schools are expected to work alongside local authorities to inform parents of the new traffic management with schools being some of the clean zones. After the information has been passed along, any motorist who idles the car will be charged a penalty of 80 euros.
Most people leave their car engines idling because they are under the impression that this consumes less fuel, or that it reduces engine wear. This is however not the case. Restarting the car consumes less fuel than leaving the vehicle idle, and idling creates more wear on the engine compared to restarting it. The measures to create ‘no vehicle idling’ zones are also a way for councils to promote fuel-efficient driving methods.
Why is it so important to cut the amount of emissions?
Exhaust emissions from vehicles account for about 64% of the air pollution in towns and citiesIn addition to being a health hazard, components of the emissions contribute to the greenhouse effect on Earth; damaging the ozone layer and resulting in global warming. Rain water dissolves the sulphur (IV) oxide from the fumes to form ‘acid rain’ which kills plants and corrodes surfaces.
Other guidelines suggested to help cut motor vehicle emission of air pollutants include use of electric cars, promoting cycling and investing in cleaner buses.
The creation of the clean zones however carries a potential downside, where the dirtiest cars are only allowed access to certain parts of the city. This increases air pollution outside the clean zones and exposes people living in these areas to greater risks. The guidelines are however a step in the right direction to reduce air pollution and protect the urban environments.