Switch off to care for your air

PUBLISHED: 1 March 2021

Date issued: 1 March 2021

New signage in pollution hot spots provide drivers with a timely reminder to switch off their engines

Colchester Borough Council has installed new signage in two of the most highly polluted areas of the town, asking drivers to switch off their engines while stationary. Roadside signs can now be seen by all road users at the traffic lights on Brook Street, in both directions, and at the East Gates rail crossing.

The road signs feature three different psychological messages that build upon previous academic research in this field1. They focus on:

  • Responsibility: “Join other responsible drivers in Colchester”
  • Effectiveness and recognising that your own actions have an impact: “You will improve the air quality in this area”
  • Reflection: “Think about your actions”

To evaluate the effectiveness of each sign the council is working in partnership with the University of Essex.

Councillor Martin Goss, Portfolio Holder for Waste, Environment and Transportation, said: "Air quality is an important issue in Colchester, affecting everyone who lives and visits our town.  
"Cars are a major source of air pollution, with as much as 30% coming from vehicle engines running whilst stationary. We hope the installation of these new signs will help remind drivers of the simple actions they can take to help improve the air we all breathe." 

Dr Marie Juanchich, from the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex, said: “We were very happy to support Colchester Borough Council in their plans to cut pollution in our town and to improve air quality. As scientific advisors on the project, we ensure that the benefits of this programme are thoroughly evaluated so that findings could inspire future actions to curb pollution.”

Research Assistants will regularly monitor the number of drivers switching off their engines, and the impact on air quality near to the signs, for the next 18 months. It is hoped that by taking a psychological approach the signs will encourage as many drivers as possible to take immediate action. The researchers will also consider whether the signs need to be rotated to help maintain positive behaviour change and to reduce the risk of drivers becoming tired of the messages.

The project is funded by the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and supports the Colchester-wide CAReless Pollution campaign. Launched in October 2020, the campaign encourages drivers to switch off their engines while stationary to bring important health benefits to everyone inside the car and cut pollution in Colchester by up to 30%.

Find out more about CAReless pollution at www.colchester.gov.uk/cleanair.

Page last reviewed: 1 March 2021


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