Starting on Friday next week, drivers who leave their cars idling for more than three minutes risk being fined, the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) said yesterday.
Vehicles idling in parking lots, on roads or in other areas should have their engines turned off if they stay in the same spot for more than three minutes, the regulations stipulate.
Violators will be fined NT$1,500 for motorcycles, NT$3,000 for small vehicles and NT$5,000 for large vehicles.
Hsieh Yein-rui (謝燕儒), director of air quality protection and noise control at the EPA, said local environmental protection bureaus have since March dispatched hundreds of personnel to inform drivers about the policy change.
They focused on locations where drivers are most likely to idle, including schools, hospitals, bus and railway stations, hotels, shopping malls and tourist attractions.
“We found that most drivers did not turn off their engines as soon as they parked, because they were expecting someone,” Hsieh said. “They might also stop the car to discuss something or to rest, or they did not switch off the engines as a matter of convenience.”
Hsieh said the benefit of enacting such a policy went beyond clean air. The EPA estimated drivers could save 640 liters of gas per year if they cut idling time by 30 minutes a day, he said.
This translated into savings of NT$21,000 per year, he added.
“There are 6 million registered car owners in Taiwan,” Hsieh said. “If only one-tenth of them decide to cut idling time by 30 minutes daily, they could save NT$12 billion [US$405 million] per year.”
Hsieh said exceptions would be made to vehicles carrying children, the elderly or passengers with special medical conditions, adding that officials enforcing the regulations would assess the circumstances and determine if the driver should be fined.
Motorists are advised to change their driving habits to avoid being fined.
As some parking lots offer 30-minute free parking deals, they could park their cars and wait for the persons they were supposed to pick up at a train or bus station.
Motorists can also call or text people to reduce their waiting time.
“It is unfair that drivers sit inside their cars with the air-conditioning on and pedestrians have to breathe in the exhaust fumes they produce,” he said.