Idling drivers could face tickets

Drivers who leave their vehicles idling for more than a minute in the Municipality of North Cowichan could soon face a $250 ticket.

Drivers who leave their vehicles unnecessarily idling for more than a minute in the Municipality of North Cowichan could soon face a $250 ticket.

North Cowichan’s council decided in a tight 4-3 vote at its meeting on Aug. 17 to implement the new bylaw in an effort to decrease the emission of greenhouse gases.

But how the bylaw is to be enforced was debated at the council table, with Coun. Rob Douglas expressing his concern that many people will “turn against” the intent of the bylaw with the fines so high.

Coun. Al Siebring also questioned how the bylaw will be enforced.

“I know this is mainly for educational purposes, but, if that’s the case, then don’t call it a bylaw,” he said.

In the staff report on the issue, North Cowichan’s engineering technologist Shaun Chadburn acknowledged that anti-idling bylaws are viewed predominately as an effective tool to promote voluntary compliance.

“Council needs to recognize that, based on existing bylaw compliance capacity, that active enforcement of an anti-idling bylaw will be a lower priority,” he said.

“However, implementing a bylaw will provide opportunities to implement public outreach campaigns in combination with targeted compliance monitoring.”

Council also decided it will place anti-idling signage at key locations within the municipality, and encourage the Cowichan Valley Regional District to develop a similar bylaw to help lower greenhouse gas emissions.

It’s a move that many communities across the province are taking, and the City of Duncan recently adopted a similar bylaw with the same fines for non-compliance.

Studies have shown that idling for more than 10 seconds uses more fuel and can produce more carbon dioxide emissions than if you were to shut off your engine and restart it when required.

Natural Resources Canada has reported that if Canadians avoided idling for three minutes every day of the year, carbon dioxide emissions would be reduced by 1.4-million tonnes, which is the equivalent of taking 320,000 cars off the road for a year.

Coun. Kate Marsh, who introduced the motion for the bylaw in June, said the Valley currently has one of the highest rates of respiratory illnesses in the province.

She said health authorities, including Dr. Paul Hasselback, the medical health officer for central Vancouver Island, have connected the excess idling of vehicles to the problem, and have asked the municipality to help deal with it.

“We’ll be showing a lack of leadership [if we don’t pass the bylaw],” Marsh said.