Idling engines and air quality – what can be done?


According to the RAC, the Royal College of Physicians estimates 40,000 deaths a year in the UK are linked to air pollution, with engine idling contributing to this. These fumes contain a number of harmful gasses including carbon dioxide, which is bad for the environment and contributes towards climate change, as well as a range of other harmful gasses including nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons which are linked to asthma and other lung diseases.

While this can often be the result of traffic congestion, there are other instances where drivers could make a real impact on air pollution by switching off their engines when waiting to collect children outside schools and in lengthy traffic jams.

Many people do not know that this is already an offence for which fines can be issued. Rule 123 of The Highway Code states that ‘drivers must not leave a parked vehicle unattended with the engine running or leave a vehicle engine running unnecessarily while that vehicle is stationary on a public road.’

Local authorities have the power to issue £20 fixed penalties for emission offences and stationary idling under The Road Traffic (Vehicle Emissions) (Fixed Penalty) (England) Regulations 2002. It is, however, important to note that this is imposed only if a motorist refuses to switch off their engine off when asked to do so by an authorised person.

The government’s Air Quality Plan includes a number of the proposals such as encouraging local authorities to improve traffic flow, giving consideration to replacing speed humps with other means to slow vehicles down safely, a very clear focus on the most polluting vehicles such as buses and taxis, and encouraging the cutting of unnecessary engine idling.

Clean Air Zones will play an important role in tackling this problem. This approach is supported by The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence which is encouraging authorities to crack down on idling. This may result in ‘No Idling Zones’ where authorised individuals such as traffic enforcement officers monitor vehicles around schools or busy shopping areas.

Videalert technology can play a big role in addressing this problem in many different ways.

Keeping Traffic Moving

To ease traffic congestion, CCTV cameras are already routinely deployed to enforce traffic regulations relating to box junctions, bus lanes, banned turns and restricted zones, all of which can have a significant role to play in reducing the build-up of traffic jams on busy routes as well as speeding up bus journey times to encourage people to leave their cars at home.

Clean Air Zones

Videalert is also at the leading edge in the development of the new breed of Clean Air Zones that are currently underway. The company was recently awarded a contract by Bath and North East Somerset Council (B&NES Council) to extend its CCTV enforcement platform with the installation of additional cameras for Bath’s approved class C CAZ that gives exemptions to private cars but charges higher polluting buses, coaches, HGVs, LGVs/vans, private hire vehicles and taxis. Importantly, the CAZ will be enforced using the multi-tasking Videalert platform which is already being used to enforce a wide range of restrictions including bus lanes, bus gates and permit parking.

The hosted Videalert platform will automate the management and enforcement of this new zone, providing real-time identification including vehicle make, model, colour and euro standard rating for pre-filtering and updating the whitelist of compliant vehicles held at the edge to minimise transmission costs. Information on non-compliant vehicles will then interface with the UK government’s new national clean air zone database for vehicle validation and payment. The system will also provide detailed analytics and impact analysis highlighting the reduction in non-compliant vehicles entering the zone over time.

Reducing Pollution Outside Schools

CCTV is also now commonly used outside schools where illegal parking on the yellow ‘keep clears’ is identified as putting children’s lives in danger. Using a single PTZ camera, the system continuously monitors the keep clear zones and automatically captures only the drivers that are stationary in defined ‘watch areas’ and exceed the ‘watch times’. Confirmed offences are transmitted to the council’s back office processing system for the issuance of PCNs.

This can be extended through the use of Mobile Enforcement Vehicles, including electric cars and bikes, for tactical deployment using civil enforcement officers (CEOs) to identify instances where car engines are idling. These vehicles can communicate with CEOs on the street to issue the required warnings and issue tickets in the event of non-compliance.

Air Quality Monitors

Of course, the whole point of deploying such tactics is to reduce pollution and improve air quality, particularly outside schools. This is an issue that is not going to go away on its own and one London local authority has already taken the lead by installing 96 air quality monitors at schools across the borough in an effort to tackle pollution.

Videalert now also provides an air pollution sensor that can be mounted alongside static CCTV enforcement cameras to monitor and measure air quality in real-time, utilising the same transmission infrastructure to send the data to Videalert’s hosted platform from where it can be analysed or shared with third party applications.

For more information regarding our solutions to combat idling engines, congestion, air quality and more, please contact us


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