AIR pollution from cars could increase with a growing number of parents saying they are more likely to drive their children to and from school as a result of the Covid pandemic.
Some 62 per cent of parents said they would now be more likely to use their car on the school run, according to a new survey by Renault.
The increased dependency on the car comes as more than a quarter (27.2 per cent) admit to leaving their engines running - or idling - during the school run.
Men are 50 per cent more likely to do it than female drivers, representing 32.7 per cent and 22 per cent respectively.
The findings have been released as Renault launches its ‘Be Mindful, Don't Idle' education campaign to improve air quality around schools.
More than 8,500 schools, nurseries and colleges in England, Scotland and Wales are located in areas with dangerously high levels of pollution*.
Renault studied the habits and attitudes of more than 4,000 ‘school run' parents and motorists.
Of the reasons given for leaving their engines running nearly a third cited doing so because they are only stationary for ‘a short while' and 26% wanted to keep the heater or air-con on.
Alarmingly, 60 per cent of all drivers are unaware that it is illegal under Rule 123 of the Highways Code. Authorities can now issue £80 fixed penalties under Road Traffic Regulations 2002 and Section 42of theRoad Traffic Act 1988in Scotland.
A lack of parking near schools is the biggest infrastructural challenge to idling.
Overall 23 per cent said they needed to be ready to move their car into a suitable parking space. Naturally, this issue is worse in urban areas - 60.9 per cent - compared to rural locations with just 11.5 per cent.
The report underlined the reasons for the ‘school run', with 30 per cent dropping their children off by car because it's on their way to work, 18 per cent because of safety concerns and 12 per cent have no other means of getting them to school.
The issue of idling is greatest within built-up urban and suburban areas according to Renault. Half of those live in cities, yet 12 per cent of those in rural areas admit to doing it regularly. Idling for just 10 seconds wastes more fuel than restarting the engine.
A 2019 study by Kings College London revealed that children in London travelling to schools across the capital are exposed to air pollution five times higher than at any other time of the day.
Renault found that London accounted for the highest number of idling offenders - 22.5 per cent.
The North West came in at 13.2 per cent followed by the West Midlands at 10.3 per cent with the South East and parts of the North East around eight per cent.
The majority (50.3 per cent) of those found to be idling say they sit with their engines running for 1-5 minutes, 6.7 per cent estimate they do it for 11-15 minutes on average.
According to the study, a quarter of all school runs are less than a mile in distance. The majority (53.9 per cent) are between one and five miles.
"The fact that the majority of people don't realise that idling is illegal just highlights the scale of the problem," said Matt Shirley, Renault's senior manager, electrification and new mobility. "Every minute a car is idling it produces enough emissions to fill 150 balloons^. It goes without saying, if the 27 per cent of school run journeys stop idling, there would be a significant improvement in the air quality for their children.
"This is not about demonising the school run, our study underlines the importance, even more so since lockdown, of the car. We just want parents and guardians to be mindful of the detrimental impact of idling, and to alter their behaviours for their own children and those around them."
Renault has been one of the pioneers of electric vehicles, developing a range of passenger and commercial vehicles providing zero tailpipe emissions.
The Renault ‘Be Mindful, Don't Idle' report involved a qualitative study of a cross-section of 2,000 parents and guardians responsible for driving their children to and from school regularly. The driving behaviours and attitudes of a further 2,000 motorists nationwide were analysed.