How Bad Is It to Idle at the School Gates? Leaving the Engine Running for 10 Minutes Every Day Can Fill Two Jumbo Jets with Excess Fumes over a Year

With a new school term just around the corner, we felt it fitting to highlight the effects of the everyday school run to the environment, particularly the habit of idling at the school gate with the engine running. For those drivers who are guilty of waiting for around 10 minutes on an average school day with the engine running, our research has found that the excess fumes produced could fill two Jumbo Jets over the course of a year.

The awareness of the environmental damage caused by leaving the engine idly running has indeed risen over the last year: motorists now face an £80 fine if they are caught doing so in Central London, Health experts including Public Health England and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence suggest that ‘no idling zones’ should be introduced outside schools, hospitals and care homes to protect those who are most vulnerable to the fumes and the City of Westminster have introduced a #DontBeIdle pledge to reinforce the capital’s commitment to improving the air quality. Indeed, many drivers are completely unaware that leaving the engine idly running is, in fact, illegal as well. According to Rule 123 of The Highway Code: ‘You must not leave a vehicle engine running unnecessarily while that vehicle is stationary on a public road.’ Despite this, many drivers are still idle engine offenders during the school run!

The #DontBeIdle pledge also found that leaving the engine to idle for one minute can produce enough exhaust to fill up to 150 balloons. Considering an average idling speed of 800 rpm in a 2 litre, 4 cylinder engine, the average car will produce 800 litres or 0.8 cubic metres of exhaust fumes per minute of idling. As such, idling for 10 minutes on every school day equates to 1,520m³ of excess fumes a year, which is enough to fill two Jumbo Jets. Even idling for 5 minutes per school day will total 760m³ of exhaust per year, the equivalent of over 23 shipping containers. For those drivers who are guilty of idling at school and other locations as well, totalling around 20 minutes of idling on every school day, they would produce an additional 3,040m³ of emissions (overfilling an Olympic-sized swimming pool) – and that’s not including any idling at weekends or holidays. By simply switching off the engine whilst waiting, drivers in the UK would dramatically reduce the level of pollution and the associated health risks for those breathing it.

Andrew Jervis, Co-Founder of ClickMechanic, said: “Switching off your car’s engine whilst you wait at school is a small change which will have a huge impact on our carbon footprint. Leaving an engine to idle wastes fuel, costs money and adds to the pollution. It also contributes to the potentially harmful emissions around the school and can affect both yourself within the car and those around. By putting a stop to this popular habit, drivers in the UK will be taking a step closer to cleaner, safer air.”