Campaign urges drivers to switch off car engines

Published: Friday 6th October 17

A campaign to tackle air pollution has continued with drivers in Tooting encouraged not to leave car engines idling.

Student school councillors take a fun approach to learning about air quality

Wandsworth is one of 15 local authorities taking part in the Vehicle Idling Action Campaign, launched a year ago with support from the Mayor of London’s Air Quality Fund.

The borough’s network of volunteer Air Quality Champions help spread the message about the amount of pollution caused by idling engines and the impact on local air quality.

The campaign includes actions to target parents who park outside schools and leave engines running while they wait to pick up their children. Last week officers and Air Quality Champions went to Smallwood School in Tooting where a special assembly was given to more than 200 school pupils. Student councillors also played a giant air quality-themed games of snakes and ladders in the playground to help drive the message home.

A special assembly was held for students

Training was provided to air quality champions on the impact of vehicle idling on air quality and afterwards at pick-up time the champions spoke to parents at Smallwood and nearby Broadwater Primary schools, as well as to drivers in Tooting High Street. In total they engaged with 48 people on how everyone can contribute to improving air quality by turning off their engines while they are waiting or parked.

Recently the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and Public Health England recommended that drivers of idling vehicles should be fined because idling engines can produce twice as much pollution as the engine of a car in motion, and the emissions contain a cocktail of dangerous chemicals.

Modern engines and batteries are no longer damaged by frequent restarts so drivers are urged to turn their engines off if they are waiting for more than a minute or so. Restarting engines uses less fuel and creates less pollution than leaving them running.

Talking to drivers at pick-up time

Wandworth Council is taking a wide range of actions to tackle air pollution in the borough, including:

  • Training members of the council’s civic enforcement team how to explain to drivers of stationary vehicles why they should not leave engines running. If drivers refuse to switch engines off they can issue fixed penalty notices.
  • A rolling programme of environmental theatre productions in local schools to teach children how their travel choices affect air quality.
  • Supporting Clean Air Day and encouraging local people to make clean air pledges
  • Helping schools develop School Travel Plans which reduce the number of cars used on the school run through initiatives like 'walking buses' and car pools.
  • Championing car clubs which dramatically reduce total vehicle use and take older, more polluting cars off the road. Wandsworth now has the highest car club membership in London.
  • Promoting cycling and investing in the borough’s cycle network. Wandsworth now has the fastest growing cycling rate in the country according to Government statistics.
  • Free bike safety lessons for children and adults to give more residents the confidence and skills they need to start cycling.
  • A free airTEXT messaging service warns residents when high pollution levels are forecast.
  • Making the borough more pedestrian friendly in certain hotspot areas.
  • Lobbying for higher capacity rail, bus, riverbus and tube services so more residents can switch from cars to public transport.
  • The council's Smarter Driving campaign encourages drivers to take simple steps to reduce their emissions, like inflating tires.

For more information about the work being carried out locally to improve air quality, visit

Read the Air Quality Action Plan

Volunteer to become an Air Quality Champion

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Recent comments

In response to the questioner who asked for a solution to being cold while sitting in a car with the engine switched off, you could try walking instead, and also wrapping up warm in readiness for any waiting time you might have to encounter. That way instead of just halving the emissions created by leaving an engine idling, you could eliminate them altogether and have the satisfaction of knowing that at least you do not need to feel guilty about the known health problems already being created for children.

11 October 2017

Unacceptable in Battersea Park the sheer numbers of buses, trucks, vans etc all stationary with idling engines. It's a park and park users still can't escape vehicular pollution and no one seems to police it. How many fixed penalty notices have actually been issued for this and across the borough by Wandsorth Council?
Gill Allen

8 October 2017

This is long overdue, not sure if there is anything I can do to support it but please support it perhaps an additional job for community police
Tom Frank

8 October 2017

Eight months of the year:- it gets really cold sitting in a car with the engine off because the heater doesn't function. Anyone have a solution to this problem?

8 October 2017

Great initiative! The other ones mentioned are important too. It is a disgrace that the air pollution in our borough is so bad.

6 October 2017

Would love a job doing that - but not voluntary.

6 October 2017

Bet they're more polite than I am when I come across idling vehicles. In Vicarage Crescent we have 'idling school run mums' - mini cabs - vans and anyone else stopping for a break (maybe it's to answer their mobiles without breaking a driving law) engines running to avoid paying parking fees. I even saw a driver in Vicarage Crescent dropping a friend off - parked ON THE PAVEMENT @ Battersea High Street end - engine running - having a chat - and still chatting when I returned from buying a paper. Please can we ban drivers who don't live in our roads from using them.

6 October 2017

Let's start with black cabs. They are some of the worst offenders, and get very aggressive if you politely let them know of the pollution risk. But maybe it's because I'm a cyclist, who doesn't even pay road tax eh?

6 October 2017

As a former resident of Wandsworth, I am glad to see that the council is actively taking measures to educate drivers regarding the unnecessary pollution created by idling vehicles. I now live near to a primary school in Sutton and am amazed by the number of parents who fail to turn their engines off when waiting to pick up their children. Worst of all, a clapped-out ice-cream van belches out diesel fumes close to a school entrance for approximately 40 minutes every afternoon, yet neither the school nor Sutton Council seem interested in taking action.

6 October 2017

I live opposite Eardley Primary School, and the parents here leave their engines running easily 15 minutes at a time, it's very polluted here, you are unable to open you windows due to this. I would very much welcome this initiative to follow across the whole of the borough. However, you would need to be able to enforce this.

6 October 2017

Sad that grown adults have to be told to turn their engines off. Would have thought it was common sense.
Olivier Desbarres

6 October 2017