Switch off & Breathe

if your car is stopped – don’t leave the engine running

Switch Off and Breathe Campaign

Vehicle Idling harms your health, the environment and costs you money.

Help reduce air pollution, just switch off…and breathe.

Council Logos

What is the “Switch Off and Breathe” Campaign?

The East Central Scotland Vehicle Emissions Partnership (VEP) is a partnership between five councils (East Lothian, Mid Lothian, West Lothian, Stirling and Falkirk Councils) which has been running since 2004 with funding provided from the Scottish Government.

The remit of the VEP is to help reduce vehicle emissions (and as a result, air pollution) by encouraging drivers to switch off their engine whenever possible. We also handle vehicle idling complaints, and provide educational resources for schools and communities.

To raise awareness, we use a mix of advertising media to publicise our ‘Switch Off’ message and encourage a change in driving habits across the country.

Did you know?

The Road Traffic (Vehicle Emissions) (Fixed Penalty) (Scotland) Regulations 2003 state that is an offence to idle your engine unnecessarily when stationary. If you fail to turn your engine off after being requested you may be issued with a fixed penalty notice of £20. Additionally, the regulations also state that it is an offence for a vehicle to produce excessive emissions (10% over the MOT limits).

The legislation covers all vehicles on public roads including buses, taxis and private cars. Although contravening these regulations is against the law, it is up to each local authority whether or not to use fixed penalties.

Our Mission

We are committed to ensuring a healthy environment for the all those living in Central Scotland.

To help reduce vehicle pollution, we encourage vehicle owners to not idle unnecessarily on our roads or in our driveways.

The aim of the partnership is to reduce the number of vehicles on our roads that contribute excessively to Scotland’s air pollution.

This in turn improves the air quality for everyone throughout the region.


Myths & Facts

Vehicle idling costs you money, harms your health, and the environment.

The practice of vehicle idling results in high running costs and air pollution levels for drivers. By reducing the number of cars idling on Central Scotland’s roads, we can all cut down on pollution and fuel wastage – which will save you money.

When it comes to vehicle idling, there are a series of myths in circulation.

Some believe that restarting the engine uses more fuel, but an engine restart can use only the equivalent amount of fuel as 10 seconds of idling. So if you’re going to be idling for longer than 10 seconds, you are better to switch off your engine.


Speech Bubble


There are lots of small, simple steps you can make to lessen the impact of nasty exhaust emissions.

Here’s a quick list you can follow to help keep our air clean when you’re on the road:

  1. Switch Off your engine whenever possible. Remember – idling costs you money, harms your health, and harms the environment.
  2. Regular servicing helps keep the engine at best efficiency.
  3. Cold starts – drive off as soon as possible after starting.
  4. Minimise weight – don’t carry unnecessary weight, empty the clutter.
  5. Drive smoothly and efficiently – harsh acceleration and heavy braking have a very significant impact on fuel consumption. Driving smoothly saves fuel.
  6. Slow down – driving at high speeds significantly increases fuel consumption.
  7. Use higher gears as soon as traffic conditions allow.
  8. Remove roof racks when not in use; they add weight, increase drag and increase fuel consumption
  9. Regularly check your tyres to ensure that they are inflated to the correct pressure.
  10. Check your fuel consumption – it will help you get the most from the car. Changes in overall fuel consumption may indicate a fault.
  11. Use air-conditioning sparingly – running it continually will increase fuel consumption significantly.
  12. Plan ahead – choose uncongested routes, combine trips or car share.
  13. Try to avoid using your car for short journeys – use public transport, ride a bicycle or walk whenever possible.



01845 451 888

I’m Tom, and I am your local representative for The East Central Scotland Vehicle Emissions Partnership.

For further information on the Switch Off Campaign or any other matters related to idling and smoky vehicles, you can leave me a message on the hotline number. Please leave your name and number and I will call you back as soon as I can. Or you can use the online form to send me a message and I will respond as soon as I can.

For any other environmental issues, other than idling and smoky vehicles, please contact the Environmental Health team within your relevant local authority area.




What is Vehicle Idling?

What is the harm?

Idling’ is when a vehicle is sitting stationary, with its engine running unnecessarily. When this is done without reason, it effectively gives the driver 0 mpg in fuel consumption and subjects those around the vehicle to continuous fumes and engine noise.

There are times when idling can be acceptable; such as on very cold days to provide heat, when stationary at traffic lights, or when a running engine is required to power equipment. But it’s important only to idle your engine for the minimum time required, not unnecessarily for longer periods.

Please bear in mind that by switching off your engine wherever possible, you actively reduce air pollution and its effects on you and those around you.



no adverse effects



no adverse affects



no adverse affects


Carbon Dioxide (CO2)

non-toxic gas but contributes towards acidification of oceans and one of the most important greenhouse gases. Governments around the world are pursuing policies to reduce CO2 emissions to combat global warming.

Carbon Monoxide (CO)

results from incomplete combustion of fuel. CO reduces the ability of blood to carry oxygen and can cause headaches, respiratory problems and, at high concentrations, even death.

Nitrogen Oxide

Nitrogen Oxides (NOx)

produced in any combustion process, NOx emissions are oxidised in the atmosphere and contribute to acid rain. They also react with hydrocarbons to produce photochemical oxidants, which can harm plants and animals.

Sulpher Dioxide

Sulphur Dioxide (SO2)

sulphur occurs naturally in the crude oil from which petrol and diesel are refined. It forms acids on combustion leading to acid rain and engine corrosion. It also contributes to the formation of ozone and of particulate matter. Sulphur can also adversely affect the performance of catalytic converters and is now removed from both petrol and diesel during the refining process.


Hydrocarbons (HC)

HCs are emitted from vehicle exhausts as unburnt fuel and also through evaporation from the fuel tank, from the nozzle when you fill up and also at stages through the fuel supply chain. They react with NOx in sunlight to produce photochemical oxidants (including ozone), which irritate the eyes and throat.


Benzene (C6H6)

naturally occurring in small quantities (less than 2%) in petrol and diesel, Benzene is emitted from vehicle exhausts as unburnt fuel and also through evaporation from the fuel system although modern fuel systems are sealed and have carbon canisters to hold the vapours. Benzene is toxic and carcinogenic. Long-term exposure has been linked with leukaemia.


Lead (Pb)

lead accumulates in body systems and is known to interfere with the normal production of red blood cells. Following the introduction of unleaded petrol and withdrawal of leaded petrol lead is essentially eliminated as an exhaust product. Lead emissions are no longer considered a problem.


Particulates (PM)

particulate matter is partly burned fuel associated mainly with diesel engines. PM10s are very small particles that can pass deep into the lungs causing respiratory complaints. Modern diesel cars are fitted with Diesel Particulate Filters (DPF) to stop these particles passing into the atmosphere.

Angry Tom



Vehicle pollution information for students, teachers and families


The East Central Scotland VEP provides a range of resources and information on air pollution that will interest students, teachers and parents in Central Scotland.

We also provide a range of services to discourage idling around schools and encourage parents, and schools, who believe they have a problem with car pollution to get in contact with us.

  • We can provide a service to put up ‘Switch off’ signs where needed.
  • We can provide leaflets advising people of the reason why they should be switching off.
  • We can provide free stationery on request. (Dependent on availability)
  • We can attend information evenings or functions. (Information wall with monitor)

Please use the videos below to show your children the effects of vehicle pollution and idling. Perhaps you may learn something too!





Does your school have a problem with idling cars and buses?

If so please report it to us.

We can raise awareness in many ways, such as the placement of anti- idling signage.

A child’s lungs are constantly developing and working much faster than adults. Therefore they are more susceptible to the effects of air pollution. You would not subject a child to cigarette smoke, yet vehicle emissions are just as dangerous and most drivers will park with their engines running outside of schools. It is harmful. Switch off your engine and let the children breathe.

Village with trees