Figures also show Covid-19 has made parents more likely to drive kids to school.

More than a quarter of UK parents leave their car idling when doing the school run, according to new research. French car maker Renault, which commissioned the study, says the fact could exacerbate air quality issues around schools, affecting children’s health.

Renault quizzed more than 4,000 motorists during its research, and found that 27.2 percent admit to leaving their engines running – known as idling – during the school run. Perhaps surprisingly, there’s a gender split when it comes to this practice, with men 50 percent more likely than women to leave the car idling.

Nearly a third of those who leave the car running said they did so because they were only stationary for “a short while”, while 26 percent claimed they did it to keep the heater or air conditioning on. Almost as many, though, said they wanted to leave the car running because of a lack of parking.

Some 23 percent said they needed to keep the engine idling so they could be ready to move into a suitable parking space as soon as one became available. The research found this was most prevalent in urban areas, where 60.9 percent of parents cited it as a reason. In rural areas, though, that figure fell to just 11.5 percent.

Worryingly, 60 percent of the drivers quizzed were unaware that idling is now illegal under Rule 123 of the Highway Code. Authorities can issue fines of £80 under the Road Traffic Regulations 2002 and Section 42 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 in Scotland.

Exhaust pipe emissions

The news comes as schools tentatively return following the coronavirus lockdown. Although the government has encouraged pupils to return on foot, by bike or on public transport, Renault’s study suggests 62 percent of parents still say they are “likely” to drop their kids off in the car.

The fact that the majority of people don’t realise that idling is illegal just highlights the scale of the problem,” said Matt Shirley, senior manager for electrification and new mobility at Renault. “Every minute a car is idling it produces enough emissions to fill 150 balloons. It goes without saying, if the 27 percent 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.”

No parking in school zone keep clear