Parents who leave their car engines running at the school gate should be fined in order to help tackle the air pollution crisis, according to England’s official health watchdogs.
“No idling zones” should be brought in outside schools, hospitals and care homes to protect vulnerable people from the poisonous fumes, suggest the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and Public Health England.
Professor Paul Lincoln, chief executive of UK health forum and chairman of the Nice guideline committee, told Sky News: “I think people will want to support this type of measure – (idling) is wasting money basically and it’s contributing to climate change as well.
“At the moment there are drivers who just do not switch off the engine for whatever reason and I think they’re probably unaware of the impact this has on the health of others.
“Also, you can’t assume that pollution isn’t coming into the car as well and having an impact on you as the driver or occupant of the car. It’s not just the people externally.”
Parents in some parts of London already face £80 charges for leaving their engines running, with Westminster City Council having introduced the no-idling zones.
Children under 14, people aged over 65 and those with conditions such as asthma and heart problems would benefit most.
According to Westminster City Council, a car idling for one minute produces enough exhaust emissions containing harmful chemicals to fill 150 balloons.
Air pollution is estimated to cause 40,000 premature deaths a year in the UK, making it the biggest environmental killer. It also results in health costs of between £8.5bn and £18.6bn a year, according to PHE and Nice.
Other measures suggested to help reduce pollution include promoting driving in a way that avoids “rapid accelerations and declarations”; providing charge points for electric vehicles in workplaces and residential areas and promoting car sharing and car clubs.
RAC roads policy spokesman Nick Lyes said: “No one should have to suffer dirty air as a result of a driver leaving their engine on unnecessarily.
“Sadly, many drivers don’t realise the harm they are causing by doing this.
“Schools should work closely with local authorities to first encourage parents to switch their engines off. It’s right that those that then persist in leaving them on should be subject to a charge.”