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Anti-idling in Mendip

"Idling" is when a vehicle's engine is left running while it is parked or stationary for a period of time, contributing further to air pollution.

Air pollution is associated with a number of adverse health impacts and as such air quality is recognised as a key public health consideration, because of the harmful effects it can have on the respiratory system and other organs (particularly the more vulnerable amongst us) . Advice from Public Heath England (PHE) about improving outdoor air quality and health identifies a range of measures including tackling idling. The challenge has been taken up by a number of councils.

Air quality remains good in Mendip and we don't have the pollutant levels experienced in many cities in the UK.  Nevertheless, enhancing air quality is a priority for the council and a resolution was passed by Mendip in February 2020 to take steps to reduce vehicle idling. The resolution identified various actions including campaigning for a range of vehicle users to avoid unnecessary pollution and to safeguard the public and protect air quality, particularly around locations of particular sensitivity (e.g. schools) and other community facilities.  

Why should I stop idling?Car no Idling

Vehicle idling is unnecessary:

  • It's bad for the environment - idling emits harmful pollutants, greenhouse gases and particles into the air. Car idling produces up to 150 balloons of harmful exhaust emissions per minute.
  • It's bad for your health - when you're idling, you are emitting harmful gases into the air which are then drawn back into your car. Air pollution has been linked to a number of different health risks.
  • It's bad for you wallet - idling wastes fuel and increases wear on your car. You could save money by switching off your engine.

Are there circumstances where vehicle idling is justified ? 

In all cases we should try to limit the idling to less than 30 seconds, but the main justified reasons are:

  • When we are sat at traffic lights or waiting at roadworks to proceed onwards
  • When we are queuing in traffic that may move forward imminently
  • If a roadside repair requires that the engine be running to diagnose and rectify the fault

What is Mendip doing to discourage vehicle idling ?

The focus is on discouraging idling and promoting positive behaviour...not to idle.  We are tackling idling in the following ways :

  • sending out social media messages to discourage idling
  • installing no idling signs in Mendips' car parks 
  • providing no idling signs for installation at other locations
  • working with our contractors and other commercial operators users to ensure that drivers are aware of the mandate to reduce idling
  • working with Somerset County Council teams to ensure that public fleet operators and highway contractors are aware of the mandate to reduce idling
  • supporting schools with information on air quality and
  • identifying any particular sensitive locations within the district where idling needs tackling

The focus is not on enforcement.  However enforcement action for drivers of private vehicles or commercial operators, where the evidence suggests persistent or repeated poor behaviours and the effects of idling are considered to be a nuisance or have significant potential for adverse health effects will be considered.  

What can each of us in the community can do to reduce the harmful effects of vehicle idling ?

These are things that we can do to reduce idling emissions and their impact on health and the environment.

  • Keep vehicles maintained in a good working condition with a regular service.
  • Switch of the engine when we are likely to be stationary for more than 30 seconds
  • Cover vehicle windscreens where cars are left overnight in cold frosty weather, and use the windscreen heaters on vehicles equipped with them
  • Consider Investing in a 12v Dc mini auto heater for those of us who might be sat in the vehicle for periods of time in cold weather
  • Can we avoid using a car for some short journeys by walking or cycling instead?

Some Myths and the Facts    

Idling gets you nowhere. Below we clear up some common misconceptions about engine idling. 

Remember, as well as wasting fuel (and money), unnecessary engine idling means harmful vehicle pollution is released into the atmosphere, which is bad for the environment and our health.

  1. My engine needs to stay on to keep the battery fully charged?

    Fact:  Modern battery design has largely eliminated this threat.
  2. Turning the engine on and off wears it out?

    Fact: Electronic ignitions in modern cars have eliminated this problem. Idling increases wear and tear
  3. Catalytic converters need to be hot to work properly?

    Fact: True, but an idling engine does not keep a catalytic converter warm. They retain their heat for about 25 minutes after an engine is switched off anyway.
  4. Idling keeps an engine in better condition?

    Fact: Idling means incomplete combustion, leading to a build-up of residue in an engine, increasing wear and tear.
  5. Starting an engine uses more fuel and produces more pollution than idling.

    Fact: For a majority, engines idling for more than 10 seconds use more fuel and causes less pollution than starting the motor. This is one of the reasons why newer vehicles are fitted with stop-start technology.
  6. The best way to warm up your vehicle is to leave the engine running for a few minutes.

    Fact:  Modern engines are designed so that you can commence driving straight after starting the car.
  7. Idling reduces wear and tear on your engine particularly when cold.

    Fact: Idling creates wear and tear on your engine because fuel does not combust completely, causing damage to engine components such as cylinders, piston rings and the exhaust system.