A new bill would see parents handed fines for leaving their car engines idling near the school gates.
The Social Democrats aim to table a new bill in the coming months to introduce €40 on-the-spot fines for drivers who fail to turn off their engines while waiting near schools.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, the party’s Spokesperson for Climate, Environment & Biodiversity Jennifer Whitmore said the fumes from idling cars can be extremely damaging for young children.
“Air pollution is a huge public health issue and I think it is one that hasn’t really got enough attention to date,” she said.
“It is estimated that something like 36,000 people in the UK die prematurely from air pollution, so it is certainly something we need to be tackling.
“When it comes to schools, our schools can often be real hotspots when it comes to toxic air pollution and I think any parent will know from when they drop their children off at school exactly how much traffic and car idling and pollution happens around the school gates every day.
“The Social Democrats are introducing this bill to make it illegal to idle at school gates because really children are a lot more susceptible to air pollution than adults. Their bodes are just developing and even their height, if you think of a child they are around the same size or same height as an exhaust and you have children in buggies that are really exposed to these toxins.
“So we want to tackle it and have targeted measures at school gates and we think the ban on idling is one way to do it.”
Deputy Whitmore said most people who leave their engines on while waiting outside schools are unaware of the dangers.
“They might be just trying to get into a car space in a car park so they will leave the engine running while they are waiting for someone to free up a space,” she said “Sometimes it is as simple as they want to listen to radio while waiting for their child to come out or have the idea, I suppose, that it is actually more efficient to have the engine running than switch it on and off - which has been disproven.
“There are a lot of reasons why people do it. I think most people do it without really understanding the impact it is having on children. So, I think it is probably a lack of education and this is something that would need to come about in conjunction with the bill.”
She said many schools are already bringing in measures to prevent idling near the school gates and expressed hope that the bill can raise awareness and make it easier for them to introduce changes.
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