Can the nation’s driving habits help cut harmful emissions?

diesel pumpThe effects of pollution caused by cars is never far from the headlines and motor manufacturers are being forced to clean up their act. Recent media pressure started with the emissions scandal dubbed ‘dieselgate’ which exposed the industry-wide practice of fudging exhaust emissions results to paint new vehicles in a greener light.

Next came governmental talk of a diesel scrappage scheme to get the oldest (and most polluting vehicles) off the road. While official plans stalled; some manufacturers decided to offer their own scrappage incentives in a bid to boost flagging sales.

The latest blow came from the introduction of the ‘Toxic Charge’ levied on high emissions vehicles in central London, which is widely anticipated to be rolled-out nationwide. It looks like the government is finally taking the problem of emissions seriously: diesel is at last being demonised, but not without good cause.

One organisation that’s long been tackling the problem of air pollution head-on is the British Lung Foundation. They’re committed to making sure that ‘one day everyone will breathe clean air with healthy lungs’ and they have turned their sights on the nation’s driving habits.

In a bid to promote more thoughtful driving they’ve produced some eye-opening statistics that cast light on what the average Brit gets up to in a lifetime behind the wheel.

Arguably the most staggering statistic is how much time we spend in our cars which adds-up to 1,080 days or three years behind the wheel. In that time the average motorist will clock-up an impressive 257,356 miles which is the equivalent of driving around the planet ten times or once to the moon.

The statistics might be a bit of fun, but they are used to highlight a much more serious point and that’s the damage we are doing to our health. Commenting on the report a spokesperson for BLF said, “We are breathing in toxic fumes when we’re driving, or running the engine, and many drivers are not aware of this. Winding your windows up does not block air pollution from getting into your car. A driver can actually breathe in higher amounts of dirty air than a cyclist on the same road”.

It’s a sobering message, especially when we consider how much time the average driver spends stuck in traffic or waiting at the lights, which is an average of 23 minutes a week, or 20 hours a year, or 48 days in a lifetime.

The public health message is clear and that’s to leave your car at home whenever possible and use public transport. Car journeys should be planned carefully making use of GPS technology to find the quickest route (without getting lost or stuck in a jam) and avoiding peak travel times such as rush hour. If you do get stuck in traffic, or are stationary for any other reason such as picking-up the kids on the school run, switch off your engine and give everyone a break.

On the lighter side of things, the survey of 2,000 drivers also revealed that the average motorist will: hit 150 potholes, share 81 kisses, buy 70 air fresheners, shed 33 tears and run 20 red lights.



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