It is estimated that air pollution kills 25,000 people a year in England alone.

The most vulnerable people to air pollution are people aged 14 and under, people who are 65 and over and people with conditions such as asthma or heart problems.

The government’s new clean air plan published in July confirmed conventional petrol and diesel cars would be banned by 2040, but the government refused to legislate for more “clean air zones” that would charge the dirtiest vehicles to enter some of the UK’s most polluted cities. The plan also stopped short of bringing in a scrappage scheme to encourage people to give up diesel cars.

In BMG Research’s most recent online national omnibus, questions were included on driving behaviours and possible measures that might reduce emissions in the short term.

Among a nationally representative sample of 1,443 UK residents, 67% were weekly car drivers.  These frequent drivers were asked to consider a scenario where they have driven to pick someone up and their car is stopped for 4-5 minutes while they wait. In this situation, a majority of 59% state that they turn their engine off. One in five (22%) drivers admit to leaving their engine on in this situation, while 16% of people have a vehicle where the engine turns off automatically when stopped. This suggests although ‘switch off’ behaviours are not universal, idling engines are perhaps not as prevalent as might be anticipated.

Given the vulnerability of young people to air pollution, all survey respondents were asked to consider whether it should be compulsory for drivers to turn off their engines while waiting outside schools. In response, 75% of respondents agree that such restrictions should be in place. Only 7% disagree with this suggestion, with the remaining 18% unsure.

Support for compulsory switch off outside schools is highest among those who already switch their engine off during a short wait (83%) and those whose vehicle does this automatically (82%). Among those who do not turn their engine off during a short wait, the support for a compulsory switch off around  schools is significantly lower at 59%, suggesting that for this section of the driving population, there may be an unwillingness to adapt behaviours. Overall, while there are some significant variations evident, majority support is found among all socio-economic groups for turning engines off outside schools.