Drivers in Wakefield could soon be fined for leaving their engines running

Drivers who leave their engines running while sat in their cars could be fined under new proposals.

Tuesday, 3rd November 2020, 7:00 am

Wakefield Council will consider whether or not to make use of legislation allowing them to clamp down on the practice, which is known as idling.

If pursued, the move would be taken to improve air quality.

Leaving an engine running "unnecessarily" on a public road is considered an offence under road traffic regulations and drivers can be fined up to £20 for it.

Leaving an engine running while the car is stationary is technically an offence, although very few councils enforce it.

But the council's climate change scrutiny committee was told on Monday that few local authorities actually enforce the rule.

However, Wakefield Council officer Gary Blenkinsop said a crackdown "would not be a bad idea" and would potentially lead to cleaner air outside schools, where the practice is common.

Mr Blenkinsop, who is the authority's environmental health manager, said: "There is the potential for an offence to be introduced for idling.

"It's an adopted power and not many councils have adopted it as a power.

The RAC says drivers who leave their vehicles running to defrost their windscreens could fall foul of the law, unless they're doing it on a private driveway or road.

"It's something, if we wanted to do we could look at it.

"It's a deterrent. Enforcing it would be a two phase approach. You'd have to issue a warning first and then a fixed penalty notice afterwards.

"So most people would take the warning and then switch their engines off.

"There is potential for us to go there. If councillors want to see that explored we could look at that."

Mr Blenkinsop said enforcing idling as an offence would require money but added that it would allow the council to crack down on areas of concern, "such as outside schools".

Committee chair Coun Olivia Rowley said exploring the issue would be "very welcome".

What does the law say?

The Road Traffic Regulations Act says: "You must not leave a vehicle engine running unnecessarily while that vehicle is stationary on a public road."

The government announced a public consultation last year on whether or not to introduce tougher penalties for the offence.

The RAC says that the law technically means it is illegal to leave an engine running to defrost a car, although as the law only applies to vehicles on a public highway, drivers parked on a driveway or in a private car park would not be committing an offence.

Local Democracy Reporting Service