Motor Pollution

Climate change is one of the most pressing issues facing the planet but it is an issue everyone can do something about. 

From turning the thermostat down to buying a more economical car, there are many steps you can take to help safeguard the future of the planet. 

Reducing the pollution that most people cause through driving a car is a major step towards a cleaner, greener environment.

Greener cars and driving

The type of car you own, the way you drive it and the fuel you use can have a big impact on the emissions it produces. Personal car travel produces 13 per cent of the UK's total greenhouse gas emissions and it contributes to local air pollution and congestion. 

What you drive

Buying a greener car doesn't mean you have to compromise. More fuel efficient cars use less fuel so they produce fewer emissions, as well as saving you money on fuel bills and on Vehicle Tax.

When you're looking at the fuel efficiency of a car remember:

  • different versions of the same car model or type of car can vary significantly in fuel efficiency - so buy a more fuel efficient version of the type of car or model you want
  • as a general rule, smaller car and cars with smaller engines are more fuel efficient

How you drive

The way you drive your car will affect how much fuel you use and the amount of emissions your car produces. By following the tips below you could save one month's worth of fuel over a year, as well as reducing your emissions:

  • driving smoothly can reduce fuel consumption - check the road ahead, anticipate traffic and avoid harsh acceleration and braking
  • shift to a higher gear at the right time - shift up at 2500rpm for petrol cars and 2000rpm for diesel cars. A vehicle travelling at 37mph in third gear uses 25 per cent more fuel than it would at the same speed in fifth gear
  • get in and go - modern engines are designed to be most efficient when you just get in and go. Keeping the engine running or pumping the accelerator wastes fuel, increases engine wear and increases emissions
  • switch your engine off if you know you won't be moving for a while
  • check your tyre pressures regularly - under-inflated tyres can increase your fuel consumption by up to three per cent
  • stick to the speed limits - at 70mph you could be using up to 30 per cent more fuel than at 50mph
  • remove unnecessary weight and roof racks - they increase the weight and air resistance so they increase the amount of fuel you use
  • air conditioning and other on-board electrical devices (like mobile phone chargers) increase fuel consumption, so only use them when necessary.

Idling vehicles

If you leave your vehicle idling when you are stationary you are contributing to air pollution.

Research shows that:

  • 10 seconds of engine idling uses more fuel than restarting
  • each litre of fuel generates 2.4kg of greenhouse gas Co2
  • exhaust emissions contain a range of toxic substances such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, hydrocarbons and particulates
  • 62% of people with asthma tell us that traffic fumes make their asthma worse
  • A quarter of people with asthma say that a reduction in air pollution is the single thing that would make the most difference to their quality of life in relation to their asthma

The Road Traffic (Vehicle Emissions) (Fixed Penalty) (Wales) Regulations 2003 (the regulations) enable local authorities in Wales to issue fixed penalty notices to drivers who allow their vehicles to run unnecessarily while stationary. These regulations came into force on 1st May 2003. 

The powers to do this are automatically conferred by the regulations; therefore local authorities do not have to apply to be designated to use them. 

When an officer discovers a vehicle with its engine running the first action would be to advise the driver that it is an offence for the engine to be running in a stationary vehicle, and that such an offence carries a Fixed Penalty of £20. 

The officer would then ask the driver to turn the engine off. 

A Fixed Penalty Notice would only be issued if the driver refuses to turn off the engine even though requested to do so by an authorised officer. 

Drivers will not be penalised, however, in cases where common sense dictates that the engine needs to be running, e.g.:

  • where a vehicle is stationary at traffic lights or in a traffic jam
  • where a vehicle is broken down and the engine is being run to find a defect
  • where an engine is needed to refrigerate fresh goods or run a compactor on a refuse vehicle
  • any other situations that may be considered acceptable. This could be to allow someone to defrost a windscreen or cool down on a hot day for a few minutes.

What can I do about pollution from other motor vehicles?

The Public Health Section is often asked what we can do if a smoky Heavy Goods Vehicle, bus, coach or other commercial vehicle is seen on the road. 

The Council does not have any power to act, but the Department of Transport's Vehicle Inspectorate does. 

If you see a commercial vehicle that has a smoky exhaust take the registration number and report the details to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency.

Last Modified: 11/10/2021
For more information contact:

Public Health

Tel: 01633 647622


Back to top