Stuck on the Drive with a Toddler – A Public Health Warning

I have showcased a range of headwear and outfits during my many hours, whiled away on the the driveway in an attempt to get the little man to have a decent nap. Not my favoured method, but when he’s been fighting sleep it seems a once around the block in the car is enough to send him to the land of nod. Rather than risk waking him with a shoddy transfer to the warmth of the house, I have instead usurped the house WiFi and sat it out just seconds from tea, coffee and snacks for an hour. Yes, the neighbours must think I’m a lunatic – especially taking selfies in a stationary vehicle – but whatever does the job I say.

I was horrified however when my friend – a visionary headteacher – suggested that I could be damaging mine and my mini-me’s health. We quickly established that although the heated seats were sometimes put on and the vehicle was stationary, my engine wasn’t idling. She was relieved that I always make sure it is turned off and that Wriggles was not breathing in the toxic gunk expelled from the exhaust. She shared with me some of the bigger issues at stake and made me reflect on my own parking practice.

Claire leads a school that has the unfortunate position of being under the A4 flyover in to London. In 2017, the school was ranked the second highest polluted in the Mayor’s air quality audit of 50 primary schools in London (info from Trees for Cities). Conscious of the harmful fumes and gases emitted by more than 100,000 vehicles using the flyover everyday, Claire and her school community sought the support of ‘Trees for Cities’ and began a campaign #GreyGoesGreen. The result has been a beautiful urban woodland, designed and created within the school grounds to offset the impact of the nearby heavily-polluted roads.

In Claire’s school community they have zero tolerance to parents sitting waiting for little people with their engines on. Their community have been educated through the campaign about the consequence of sitting outside the school with the engine on as little people pass by. Somerset Live reported “Research shows that idling engines produce up to twice the amount of exhaust emissions compared to when a vehicle is moving. This means in areas where there are high numbers of idling vehicle engines, such as outside schools, levels of carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide build up.”

We have to consider the impact of an idling engine for those inside the vehicle too. As we’ve established, the filth kicked out by vehicles, and I’m conscious that I run a Diesel engine so am one of the worst offenders, is harmful to both air quality and our health. With exhaust fumes containing nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons, leaving engines idling can exacerbate asthma and other lung diseases. Just think of the impact if I was sitting on the driveway for an hour with all those nasties pumping in to the air around my car, potentially being breathed in by my little man.

It’s interesting to note that sitting in a stationary vehicle with the engine idling is an offence in the UK. The RAC share “Rule 123 of The Highway Code looks at ‘The Driver and the Environment’, stating that drivers must not leave a parked vehicle unattended with the engine running or leave a vehicle engine running unnecessarily while that vehicle is stationary on a public road.” This could land you a £20 fine if you were to refuse an official asking you to turn your engine off.

My recommendation is you have to wait with little people in the car – get a blanket to cover them and invest in a nice warm coat, gloves and scarf for you! It’s not worth risking their health to have the engine running just to keep you warm!

To find out more about the work they have done at St Paul’s CE primary, watch ‘Chris Packham: Plant A Tree To Save The World’ on UK’s Channel Five at 8pm on Thursday 28th November, where Claire features or check out this link: Trees for Cities.

Stuck in a car with a toddler, WITH THE ENGINE OFFWritten by Karen Legge for her blog, The Unyoung Mum.

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