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Traffic Marshals To Crack Down On Illegal Engine Idling

By raccars Published

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Drivers who pull over and leave their engines idling are to be fined £20, in what motoring organisations are calling a new 'stealth tax.' Stationary idling cars are to be targeted by a 'hit squad' of traffic marshals, as local authorities struggle to meet clean air targets.

Islington Council introduced 24 of these traffic marshals in August last year. They are empowered to issue £20 fines if they spot stationary drivers who have left their engines idling. Eighty five traffic marshals will patrol the streets of Westminster ready to hand out fines for idling from 1 May. The scheme is expected to be expanded nationwide, to help the UK meet strict environmental targets set by the European Commission.

Marshals should first request drivers to turn engines off and are able to issue a fine if they refuse. The standard £20 fine must be paid within 28 days, after which it goes up to £40. The legislation is not aimed at motorists whose engines are left running at traffic lights or in congestion, but at those who are waiting for pick ups at school gates, stations or outside shops. The 'stationary idling' offence came into effect in 2002 and is covered by Rule 123 of the Highway Code, but has largely gone unenforced until now.

A number of councils have taken steps to encourage drivers to turn off engines while stationary, with Havering Council warning parents waiting at school gates that pollutants from stationary idling engines can cause problems to asthmatic children. Signs have been put up by the local authority in West Sussex, advising drivers not to leave engines running in Shoreham-by-Sea.

Motoring groups are unimpressed, claiming that this is just another way to extract cash from already hard pressed motorists. Drivers of older cars will be most at risk, as many modern cars use stop-start ignition technology, which ensures the engine is automatically extinguished if stationary for a certain period of time. Critics are concerned that motorists will be hit by fines when running their engines to try and clear windscreens, to be able to drive safely on frosty winter mornings.

The Licensed Taxi Drivers' Association suggests that the legislation is misguided and claims traffic congestion is at the root of pollution issues. Heavy traffic areas display pollution 30% higher than areas where traffic moves freely.

Westminster Council has defended the move as necessary to raise driver awareness of the effects of air and noise pollution on public health.

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