Fewer than 500 of Britain’s 48million motorists – which works out at around 0.001 per cent of all licence holders – have been fined in the last four years by police for leaving their engines running.
This undermines warnings about being slapped with fines for de-icing windscreens.
Leaving your car’s engine to idle so the heater can defrost the windows is an offence under Section 42 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, with motoring organisations and companies seeking publicity regularly using cold snaps to issue warnings it can ‘land drivers in hot water’ with the law and a £40 penalty.
However, police records suggest this isn’t necessarily the truth.
According to data obtained through a Freedom of Information request by This is Money, police forces around the country revealed just 494 fines had been handed out since 2015 for breaches of Section 42 – and many of them won’t even be for de-icing a car outside the owner’s home.
Just 494 fines have been issued by police to motorists for leaving their engines idling in the last 4 years, with 6 of the 43 forces in England and Wales handing out NONE in that period
Some forces were also particularly fine-happy on certain years.
Leicestershire Constabulary handed out only seven fines over the four years between 2015 and 2018 but five of those were in 2016, while more than half of the 17 fines issued by South Yorkshire Police were issued in 2015.
The data shines a light on the difficulty to police an offence such as leaving a vehicle’s engine idling, especially when you consider the number of job cuts at forces across the UK in the last decade.
Latest stats show that the number of police officers in England and Wales has fallen by over 20,000 between March 2010 and March 2018.
I’ve seen examples all winter…
By assistant editor Lee Boyce
I have seen a huge number of drivers this winter leaving engines running while attempting to de-ice windscreens – many of which sit there, frantically using their windscreen wipers to do so.
My commute involves a ten minute walk to the train station through a residential street, and at least half-a-dozen motors a morning are running, idly, on driveways.
The (thinning) police probably have better things to do than cruise the residential streets fining drivers.
One particularly frosty January morning, I saw a driver who had scraped off no more than an A5 peering hole through the windscreen, and then subsequently mounted a curb while taking a corner.
Additionally, while travelling from Shenfield to Liverpool Street and back recently, a number of rail replacement buses sat outside the station with engines running for no obvious reason.
Although this is not to de-ice windscreens, it still points that much can be done to stop the unnecessary running of engines, and help the environment in the process.