Drivers who leave their engines running while their cars are at a standstill could be fined in a bid to cut traffic pollution.

Penalties of £20 – rising to £40 if not paid within 28 days – will be issued to drivers in Haringey who refuse to turn off their engines when told to do so by an enforcement officer.

It is hoped the measures, which were approved at a meeting of Haringey’s cabinet on Tuesday (November 12), will change driver behaviour and help to reduce pollution.

Idling – leaving the engine running unnecessarily while a car is at a standstill – is an offence under road traffic regulations.

While the engine is idling, it is continuing to pump harmful chemicals such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and particulate matter into the atmosphere.

Drivers are allowed to leave their engines running when it is deemed necessary, such as while queuing at traffic lights and defrosting windscreens.

But in some situations – such as leaving an engine running while parked outside a school waiting for children – they are committing an offence.

Under the measures agreed by the council, an enforcement officer will warn drivers who are caught idling and give them a chance to switch off their engines.

If the driver refuses, they will be given a £20 fixed penalty notice.

The council has previously had the power to crack down on engine idling but doing so was not considered “the most cost-effective means of reducing air pollution”.

That is because few FPNs were issued in boroughs that chose to enforce anti-idling measures.

Council papers say the anti-idling charge is “unlikely to have significant effect on air quality by itself”.

But idling was the most talked-about problem among people who responded to a consultation on the council’s air quality action plan.

One in ten respondents wanted stricter enforcement measures around schools and other common places for idling.

The Mayor of London is also providing funding to tackle idling, making it more cost-effective.

Kirsten Hearn, (Labour), cabinet member for climate change and sustainability, said: “Improving air quality is a key priority in Haringey and London.

“Pollution kills. It is a threat to the health of residents from all the communities but particularly children and older people, and particularly in the east of the borough.

“The action plan is a key part of how the council takes action to combat climate change.”