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Battle against idling engines targets drivers on school run

DRIVERS on the school run in Scotland are facing £20 on-the-spot fines as they become the key targets in a new campaign to stop engines running unnecessarily while stationary.

covering UP: Masks could be needed to beat the problems of irritation and inflammation of the lungs caused by exhaust fumes. Pictures: Helen Barrington
covering UP: Masks could be needed to beat the problems of irritation and inflammation of the lungs caused by exhaust fumes. Pictures: Helen Barrington

Areas around schools in South Lanarkshire are to be patrolled by council staff over the next three months to enforce powers which are seen as a weapon to tackle air pollution.

It is believed to be the first time a council has openly targeted parents dropping children off at school to reduce emissions.

The council says the fixed penalty notices "may be issued" by their environmental services staff but only if the driver fails to turn off the engine when requested.

Shirley Clelland from the council said: "We are unaware of any other authority in Scotland is doing this.

"There is a legal requirement regarding inappropriate engine idling and we have decided to focus near schools as children are more susceptible to the effects of air pollution.

Officers are also tasked with distributing information telling drivers about the harmful effects of engine idling.

Council information aimed at motorists suggests parents could walk, cycle or use public transport to travel to school.

The council states: "Leave the car behind and use more active ways to travel to school.

"Children and adults all benefit from being more physically active - use the school commute to improve your health and reduce pollution."

Scottish ministers who ­previously introduced the powers said they should not extend to vehicles sitting in queues of stationary traffic, such as at traffic lights.

Simon Williams of the RAC said: "While it's good to walk or use local transport to collect children from school some people have little choice but to rely on vehicles to do the school run.

"We wouldn't like to see motorists unfairly penalised by overzealous local authority officials. Enforcement of fines like this need to be carried out with a good dose of common sense.

"Surely to prove that penalties are effective they must lead to a change of behaviour so let's hope nobody ever has to pay these fines."

Pupils at one South Lanarkshire school this week donned masks to highlight the issue of pollution from cars.

The council said it had started the campaign because winter was the time of the year when there was greater temptation at school drop-off and pick-up times for parents to keep the engine running.

"This can however negatively impact the quality of air - the air our children have to breathe in," said a council spokeswoman.

"Children are more vulnerable to air pollution because they breathe 50% more air per pound of body weight than adults.

"Vehicle idling unnecessarily is an offence.

"Exhaust emissions from vehicles contain a range of pollutants such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, hydrocarbons and particulate matter. Air pollutants irritate and cause inflammation of the lungs as well as lowering resistance to respiratory infections such as influenza. People with heart and lung conditions are particularly susceptible and 62%of people with asthma report that traffic fumes make their condition worse."

The council's advisory leaflet to motorists also points out that, according to the Consumer Energy Centre, idling for more than 10 seconds uses more fuel than restarting a car.

It tells drivers: "Idling your car is not the best way to warm your car in cold weather. The best way to warm up a car is to drive it.

"Frequent restarting is not hard on the engine and battery. Frequent restarting has little impact on engine parts like the battery and starter motor."

The leaflet warns drivers that ­excessive idling is hard on engines and can damage cylinders, spark plugs and exhaust systems.

Officers from the council previously carried out random tests on vehicles in the summer to see if they passed legal emissions requirements.

Five fixed-penalty notices were issued after a total of 761 cars were checked.

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