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Vehicle idling

Idling vehicles on Islington’s roads are contributing to the air pollution problems in London. The council has been taking action against idling vehicles since 2006.

Let’s stop idling engines

Running an engine while a vehicle is stationary pollutes the environment and is against the law on a public road.

What are the problems?

If a vehicle is idling it can produce up to twice as much exhaust emissions as when it is moving. Exhaust fumes contain a wide range of air pollutants such as carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10). These detrimentally affect the quality of the air we all breathe.
Diesel vehicles emit 4 times more NO2 and 22 times more PM10 than petrol vehicles.

Engine idling and the Law

The law says that is an offence to idle your engine unnecessarily when stationary. If you fail to turn your engine off after being asked to do so by an authorised officer you can be issued with a fixed penalty notice. This is enforced under the Road Traffic Regulations 2002.

The law covers all vehicles on public roads including buses, taxis and private cars. However it does NOT apply to vehicles moving slowly due to road works or congestion; vehicles stopped at traffic lights; vehicles under test or repair; or defrosting a windscreen. The fixed penalty notice is issued to the driver of the vehicle.

What can we all do?

  • Switch off your engine if it looks like you could be waiting for more than a minute or two. 
  • Turn off your engine when stationary, for example - on a road at a shop, school, taxi rank and stands, whilst unloading / loading or when parked outside your house.
  • Avoid idling whilst waiting in car parks, petrol stations, laybys, 'set down' and 'pick up' points.
  • Avoid making short trips by car and whenever possible, walk, cycle or even scoot.

What are the benefits?

  • By turning off your engine you improve local air quality, lower noise pollution, reduce amount spent on fuel and comply with the law.
  • Reducing air pollutants helps cut heart disease, reduce lung cancer and prevent asthma attacks.
  • Research suggests that improving air quality reduces cases of childhood asthma.


  • Does starting an engine cause more pollution than idling? 
    • Keeping the engine idling for longer than a minute or two causes more pollution than turning the engine off and restarting it when it’s needed.
  • Does the engine need to stay on to keep the battery fully charged? 
    • No, modern batteries need less engine running time.
  • But when it’s cold don’t I need to keep my engine on to keep warm? 
    • It can take up to an hour for an engine to cool down. Turning off your engine but keeping the key in the ignition and fan blowing will provide warm air for some time. If you are concerned about passenger comfort keep the engine idling to an absolute minimum in warm and cold weather.
  • Doesn’t stopping and starting the engine wear it out? 
    • No. This is no longer a problem with modern engines.

What is Islington doing?

  • Providing information and raising awareness.
  • Reducing vehicle emissions by enforcing regulations to stop engines idling.
  • Vehicle Idling Action - a series of anti-idling days taking place across London, including in Islington.

Vehicle Idling Action

Islington Council is taking part in the London wide campaign to stop vehicle idling. With the help of volunteers we will be holding monthly pop-up events in the borough educating motorists and pedestrians about idling, and asking drivers to support the campaign. For more information see http://idlingaction.london/ 

How you can get involved:
  1. Join us for our campaign launch (details below).
  2. Come to monthly pop-up events.
  3. Volunteer with us and raise awareness in your area!

The campaign launch is:

  • 19 October 2016 - 9am (volunteers)/10am (general attendance) to 12pm
    St Mary’s Church, Upper Street, Islington N1 2TX
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