Forced to idle

Driving responsibly means being aware of those breathing my vehicle’s carcinogenic exhaust fumes and acting to minimise their (and my own) exposure.

I spend one to two hours a week idling in congested traffic. I know it’s harmful to my children to keep my engine running for minutes at a time whilst stationary in traffic but every time the vehicle ahead of me inches forward I get beeped from behind to move along.

Each acceleration can release ten times the carcinogenic fumes into my vehicle. Every time I brake, the break-pads rub against the tyres and the tyres against the road releasing tiny bits of metal, rubber and oil small enough to enter my children’s lungs, bloodstream and organs. My vehicle is not air tight and it does not filter out all the toxic pollutants, so we are exposed to higher concentrations than the pedestrians walking past.

The traffic lights aren’t helping. When they turn green the road ahead is seldom clear to drive more than a few feet then brake, idle and edge forward, repeatedly. Even when I can see the traffic light ahead is red, I don’t know when it’s going to turn green or if it’s worth turning my engine off.

Why aren’t their driver facing countdown timers?

Why don’t traffic lights stay red until there’s a clear road ahead to drive on?

I’m ok with waiting 2-3 minutes at a red signal if:

  • I can see a countdown timer
  • I know that the road ahead will be clear for me to drive on
  • It will take me the same amount of time to get to my destination
  • Something was done to prevent other drivers rat running (non-local motor traffic using residential streets to get ahead of me).

If I know I’m being held at a red signal, I can ignore the drivers beeping behind me, happily turn my engine off and each time save 2-3 minutes of unnecessary pollution.

For older cars and larger vehicles idling for more than thirty to sixty seconds produces more pollution than engine restart. Modern cars use virtually no extra fuel when they are re-started without pressing the accelerator.

With the number of vehicles on the roads during peak times, that’s a lot of idling time that could be prevented and a lot of fuel money saved by drivers.

I know it’s a headache for TFL and local authorities to adjust traffic light timings but please, please, please give us the opportunity not to idle.

London Driver

Comment (1)

  1. Our Toxic School Run

    […] I believe that if parents who drive the toxic school run fully understand what’s at stake, they will lead the way, switch off their engines and reduce their own children’s pollution exposure. Self-interest and social pressure will encourage other vehicle drivers to follow, many of whom already feel they are being forced to idle. [ref] […]

    Reply September 24, 2018 at 12:37 pm

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